United States

United States

Battle for Buffalo Ridge

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Two wind farms totalling 92.5 MW are being proposed in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by Wisconsin Public Service Corp. Both would be ready to power the Green Bay, Wisconsin area by 1997. A subsidiary of Kenetech Windpower of San Francisco, Wind River Power Corp, is proposing a 75 MW installation in southwestern Minnesota, on the Buffalo Ridge, which would come on line in January 1997. The other is a 17.5 MW plant using Vestas V39s from Denmark, to be sited in a rural area near Rosiere about 20 miles east of Green Bay and proposed by New World Power Corp.

The wind bids are two of 13 bids received by the utility which is seeking a "large" but unspecified amount of power -- in the range of 200 MW -- by 1997, says vice president Larry Weyers. Bids totalled more than 1800 MW and ranged as high as 233 MW in capacity. The wind bids were the only two renewable bids received. Four of the bids -- for gas and coal-fired plants -- were submitted by the utility itself.

A recommendation of one larger bid, or as many as two to three smaller bids, will be forwarded to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) by mid-May, says Weyers. Evaluation is being based on cost, as well as factors such as reliability and the environment. So far, none of the bids has been dropped after a preliminary evaluation. All 13 will now be evaluated in detail, says Weyers. A final announcement is expected in August or September.

The RFP was issued after a competitive bidding process set in motion last year by the PSC, which regulates utilities. It is the first time the state has seen a competitive bidding process since late last year, when the state's regulatory officials mandated that all capacity additions of 12 MW or more should be decided on a competitive basis.

Near revolution

"It was a near revolution," comments Michael Vickerman of Renew Wisconsin, based in the state capital of Madison. Wisconsin has a particularly low proportion of its power produced by independents rather than utilities, he says. "I'm quite elated about the wind bids," he adds.

Power would be transmitted from the Kenetech turbines some 400 miles to the utility service area. The facility would be sited in Lincoln County and would require transmission and wheeling privileges from Northern States Power. The installation of Kenetech turbines is already under way on Buffalo Ridge in Minnesota for a 25 MW Northern States Power wind plant. The proposed New World Power plant of Vestas machines, about one-quarter of the size of Kenetech's, would be on line in October 1997. It is sited near existing distribution lines.

Late last year, a group of Wisconsin utilities announced it is installing, in a $1 million project, two modified prototype Kenetech turbines, with longer blades and taller towers for Wisconsin's low wind speeds (Windpower Monthly, January 1994). The prototypes are phase two of a five-phase wind plan devised by the utilities after regulatory officials asked the state's utilities to have 10 MW of wind on-line by 1998 or 1999 (Windpower Monthly, July 1993). The most likely site for the prototypes and the 10 MW wind farm is De Pere, on the Niagara Escarpment, says Vickerman.

The utilities have said they would be willing to develop more than 10 MW, depending on the outcome of the five phase plan and the performance of wind turbines tested under it.

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