First turbine erected at Puget Sound Energy's 343-MW Lower Snake River Wind Project in Garfield County, Washington; facility expected to start operating in spring 2012
April 4, 2011
– Puget Sound Energy late last week erected its first wind-power turbine among the wheat fields and rangeland of southeast Washington’s Garfield County, where PSE is constructing its 343-megawatt Lower Snake River Wind Project - Phase I.
The first of the project’s 430-foot-tall turbines was completed Friday afternoon by the turbine manufacturer, Siemens Energy. When all 149 turbines are erected and operating in spring 2012, the facility will be PSE’s largest wind-power operation and one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest – generating enough electricity to serve up to 100,000 homes. Final assembly of the first turbine had been delayed for a week by high winds, gusting at times above 70 mph.
“This project, like our existing Hopkins Ridge and Wild Horse wind facilities, is supporting a cleaner, greener energy future for Washington state,” said PSE president and CEO Kimberly Harris. “But more than that, it is creating good jobs and a stronger, more secure energy future for our nation.”
Huge cranes, with booms extending 390 feet into the air, are now setting in place the turbines’ tower sections, nacelles and three-blade rotors. Many of the nacelles – they contain the turbines’ gear boxes and power generators – are being manufactured at a Siemens plant in Hutchinson, Kan. A Siemens factory in Fort Madison, Iowa, is producing all the Lower Snake River turbine blades. Each rotor is 331 feet in diameter – more than a football field’s length. The turbine towers are bolted to concrete foundations that are up to 8½ feet thick and weigh in excess of 600 tons (equal to the weight of more than 100 bull elephants). The turbines themselves weigh more than 340 tons.
PSE and its lead contractor, RES Americas – together with Siemens Energy and various subcontractors – started building the Lower Snake River project in May 2010. Over the past 11 months, project work has focused on building access roads and installing underground power cables that will deliver the turbines’ electricity to the large on-site substations now under construction as well.
About 150 construction workers, on average, are on the site, though the number can exceed 250 on a given day. About half the construction workers are from Eastern Washington, with about a quarter hailing from Washington’s southeast corner. Besides creating local jobs, the project is generating a significant amount of commerce for local businesses, including lodging, restaurant, hardware, auto service, and catering businesses.
Work also is progressing on the project’s operations and maintenance building on the outskirts of Pomeroy. The 15,000-square-foot O&M building along Falling Springs Road will contain office, warehouse and workshop space. Opp & Seibold, from Walla Walla, is PSE’s general contractor. Approximately 25 permanent employees from PSE and Siemens Energy will occupy the building once it opens this fall.
"It's exciting to see the first wind turbines going up at the Lower Snake River project," said Dean Burton, chairman of the Garfield County Commission. "Puget Sound Energy has been a strong partner in our community and its wind project is bringing a lot of benefits to the people of Garfield County."
Siemens employees will be responsible for all maintenance of PSE’s Phase I wind turbines, while PSE’s staff will manage the production and transmission of the wind facility’s electric power.
With the completion of its Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility in 2005 and Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility in 2006, PSE became the United States’ second largest utility producer of wind power. Phase I of the Lower Snake River Wind Project will boost the utility’s wind-power capacity by another 80 percent. All together, the three PSE wind facilities will produce enough electricity to serve about 230,000 households.
Harris noted that PSE is pursuing federal stimulus-package funding and state incentives for using apprentice labor for at least 15 percent of the construction work. These incentives lower the cost of the project for the utility’s customers. In addition, the apprentice program supports skills training and apprentice development in a variety of different trades.
A short video on the new project can be viewed on the Lower Snake River page of PSE.com or on Vimeo. Photos of Lower Snake River turbine assembly and construction of the project’s O&M building also can be viewed on PSE.com.
About Puget Sound Energy
Washington state’s oldest local energy utility, Puget Sound Energy serves more than 1 million electric customers and 750,000 natural gas customers in 11 counties. A subsidiary of Puget Energy, PSE meets the energy needs of its customers through incremental, cost-effective energy efficiency, procurement of sustainable energy resources, and far-sighted investment in the energy-delivery infrastructure. PSE employees are dedicated to providing great customer service and delivering energy that is safe, reliable, reasonably priced, and environmentally responsible. For more information, visit www.PSE.com.