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Approvals come in for Northwest plant -- Vansycle 99 MW extension

A 99 MW expansion of FPL Energy's 24.9 MW Vansycle wind plant along the state line of Oregon and Washington appears to be close to going ahead. Oregon's Energy Facility Siting Council, after an expedited review, approved the project in April and FPL has applied to Walla Walla County in Washington for a conditional use permit for another 150-200 MW. Construction could begin this year, with commercial production scheduled by end 2001. If approval is given, Vansycle will become the largest wind farm in the Pacific Northwest.

FPL is quiet on the matter. "We're examining the viability of the project, but it would be premature to make a formal announcement at this time," says FPL's Carol Clausen.

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a government power marketing and transmission agency, has proposed executing both power purchase and transmission agreements for the entire output of the project, the BPA confirms. Transmission is available in Washington across both BPA and PacifiCorp lines, but some connecting transmission lines and a substation are required.

The wind farm will be located one or two miles from the Vansycle Ridge plant of V-47 Vestas turbines in Oregon, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) east of the spot where the Columbia River turns north into Washington, and 70 miles east of the Columbia Gorge. The local chapter of the National Audubon Society, which has opposed a number of wind energy projects near the Gorge, has called Vansycle a "model project" (Windpower Monthly, April 2000). Like Vansycle's initial phase, the extension will sit solely on privately owned wheat and cattle grazing land. According to the BPA, the project will consist of 250-450 turbines, depending on the size of the turbine chosen. FPL may use 1.3 MW units, if demand for power is great enough.

BPA has begun to put together an environmental impact statement (EIS), which Oregon's departments of energy and fish and wildlife suggest should encompass both the state line project area and a much broader "Potential Wind Development Area." Following completion of the draft EIS, public comment must be taken, and any changes or recommendations made before construction can begin.

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