Idaho building its largest wind complex to date

Oregon Trail area will soon be home to 122 wind turbines producing electricity for the state.

The Golden Valley is just one of 11 areas in Idaho that will be used for the Idaho Wind Partners project. GE Energy Financial Services

Idaho is building what will be the state's largest wind project to date near land once traversed by Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea.

As part of the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for the 183-megawatt Idaho Wind Partners project, Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and others signed the giant blade of a wind turbine. Most of the land being used for the Idaho project consists of both active and idle farmland across Magic Valley, part of which is considered a piece of the iconic Oregon Trail.

"The renewable energy industry is breathing new life into the Idaho frontier. We're aggressively harnessing our abundant natural resources for growth because that helps our economy, generating not only electricity but career opportunities right here at home," Otter said in a statement.

Though not as large, the Idaho Wind Partners project is similar to the $1 billion Texas wind energy complex in that it will also be a system of interconnected wind farms spread across privately owned land.

The project has actually already been started with wind turbines being delivered, access roads being forged, transmission lines being laid, and foundations being poured for wind turbine towers, according to GE Energy Financial Services, one of the investors in Idaho Wind Partners.

When completed, it will consist of 122 1.5-megawatt GE turbines placed throughout 10,000 acres, and produce enough electricity to power about 39,700 "average Idaho homes," according to GE.

The $500 million Idaho Wind Partners project was financed in part by Reunion Power, Exergy Development Group, Atlantic Power, and GE Energy Financial Services. Under a 20-year power of purchase agreement, all electricity generated by the wind project will be sold to the Idaho Power Company.

The farmland wind project should also qualify for a U.S. Treasury Grant aimed at promoting renewable energy projects. But there is concern that politics could get in the way of the Treasury Grant's extension beyond this year, according to GE Energy Financial Services.

"A federal incentive backing this project, the Treasury Grant, is expiring at year's end. Extending that program and other federal incentives would provide the long-term certainty that investors and manufacturers such as GE need to ensure continued expansion of renewable energy throughout the country," Alex Urquhart, CEO of GE Energy Financial Services, said in a statement.

Updated at 1:51 p.m. PT with corrected spelling.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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