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Nuclear operator to cut costs with wind -- Across the border from Vansycle

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The operator of the American Northwest's only nuclear power plant is planning to build and own a 15 to 25 MW wind project in south-eastern Washington near the Oregon border. Energy NW says it wants to lower the cost of its nuclear and believes there is a market in the Northwest for wind energy.

Located about 12 miles south east of Kennewick, the turbines will be near FPL Energy's 25 MW Vansycle Ridge wind farm in Oregon, 20 miles away. FPL has applied to expand that project by up to 300 MW before the end of 2001 (Windpower Monthly, July 2000).

"It's on the same ridge as Vansycle, with the Columbia River knifing through the ridge between us, so it has good wind," says Dan Porter of Energy NW, based in Richland, Washington. Energy NW's John Britton says its members, which are municipal and public utilities, have a strong interest in renewables -- especially wind power. Developing wind may even attract new members. The strongest benefit to building this or other non-nuclear power plants, however, is that it will spread the company's overhead costs over more facilities, which could lower the cost of its nuclear power, Britton says. Energy NW's only other generating facility is a small hydroelectric dam near Tacoma, Washington. "We don't want to just be a nuclear operator. There's not a big future in that," he adds. According to Porter, a tender for wind turbine supply is expected to be announced before the end of the year.

The company has started to work with local officials from the Audubon Society which has forced a stop to a wind project 120 miles to the west due to bird concerns. "The site has good wind, there's transmission to get the power out and now we're looking at the environmental and cultural issues," Porter says. "There have been no show-stoppers yet. If things keep going as well as they have been, in sixteen months it looks like we'll have turbines up."

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