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Utility teams up with developer to build 1250 MW wind plant

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) in Washington is teaming up with RES Americas, the US arm of Britain's Renewable Energy Systems, to build a huge 1250 MW wind farm in Columbia and Garfield counties, a sparsely populated area where the two companies have worked together before. PSE, one of the first US utilities to delve into wind plant ownership, joined with RES to build the 150 MW Hopkins Ridge project in Columbia County in 2006. "It's not part of our service territory as a utility," says PSE's Andy Wappler. "But we're on the ground, we have a presence, we have employees there. And so for us, you really become a part of the neighbourhood in a way that's unique by being the owner and operator of a facility." Access to transmission wires for the proposed Lower Snake River wind project will have to be ironed out with the area's grid operator, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). "We can connect into some of the existing BPA dam system, at least initially," Wappler says. "But we would have to build a large substation with BPA and there would need to be some add-ons to the BPA system to be able to accommodate the full 1250 MW." Columbia County already sees about $900,000 in annual taxes from Hopkins Ridge, says Wappler. "That's about 18% of the county's total property tax," he adds. "Because of that, individual homeowners have seen their taxes drop by about $300 a year. Wind is a great fit in these grain farming communities." PSE began owning wind plant in 2005 when it bought the 228.6 MW Wild Horse project from RES. A 44 MW expansion is expected online by year's end.

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