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GE wins $1.4 billion wind farm contract

An 845-megawatt wind project in Oregon, called Shepherds Flat, promises to be the largest in United States to date, spanning approximately 30 square miles.

GE's 2.5-megawatt wind turbines, installed at a wind farm in Germany.
General Electric

Power company Caithness Energy has given General Electric a $1.4 billion contract to supply wind turbines and 10 years' worth of maintenance for an Oregon wind farm, GE announced Thursday.

The massive 845-megawatt wind farm, Shepherds Flat, will be located near Arlington, Oregon, but span approximately 30 square miles and cover parts of Oregon's Gilliam and Morrow Counties.

GE estimates that it will supply 338 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbine models to be installed between 2011 and 2012. Although they have been used in Europe and Asia, the company says the Shepherds Flat project will include the first U.S. installations of these specific GE turbines.

"When completed, [the Shepherds Flat project] will be larger than any wind farm currently in operation around the globe," GE said in a statement.

Of course, that comment depends on how you decide to calculate what constitutes a single farm and whether it matters if the wind farm is on land or in the ocean. In July, for example, Texas announced plans to host two 750-megawatt offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Regardless of whether this wind farm will be the largest, or among the largest in the world, there's no question that once completed, it will make a significant impact on power supply.

Shepherds Flat, which has been contracted to provide to power utility Southern California Edison, is predicted to generate about 2 billion kilowatt-hours per year. That's enough power to supply about 235,000 households annually, according to statistics provided by GE.

That power does not come without significant layout costs. New York-based Caithness Energy predicts that the project setup will cost $2 billion, including necessary improvements to area roads and power connection equipment to the grid in order for the wind farm to be operational.

GE and Caithness Energy have also touted how the project will bring some jobs to American workers. An estimated 400 workers will be hired for construction of Shepherds Flat, scheduled to break ground in 2010 and be complete in 2012, and an estimated 35 permanent workers will be hired to operate the wind farm. The estimated number of jobs to be created for the wind turbines' assembly, in a GE plant in Pensacola, Fla., was not disclosed.