Green Citizens in Eugene Vote For, Finance Unprecedented Wind Power Project

The Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), a citizen-owned power system in Eugene, Oregon, has begun construction of the largest scale wind power project by a public utility. The citizens of Eugene, Oregon approved a $150 million bond measure to support renewable energy in 1994, initiating a partnership with PacifiCorp to construct a $60 million wind power plant in southeastern Wyoming. EWEB's portion will be marketed to its customers, who may eventually be able to pick a "green power" package through the municipal utility.

The project, which will be complete in late 1998, includes 69 600-kilowatt wind turbines, a substation, and an estimated 28 miles of transmission lines connecting to PacifiCorp lines. Funds from the bond sale will be used toward EWEB's $13 million 21 percent share of the project. Portland-based PacifiCorp owns the remaining 79 percent. The Bonneville Power Administration will buy 37 percent of the power generated by the 41-megawatt plant, including 2.3 megawatts of the 8.8 megawatts allocated to EWEB.

Douglass said that EWEB pursued the project in anticipation of electric deregulation in the next five years. With that in mind, EWEB's use of "green power" could help it competitively, even if it costs more, Douglass said, siting the 1994 citizen renewables bond approval and bi-annual surveys which expressed widespread public willingness to support renewable energy. The cost of open-market power is about 2 cents per kilowatt hour, while wind power is estimated at 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour. It will cost EWEB about $500,000 per year to operate the wind turbines and pay off the construction bonds.

"It's a source of power that the people can draw from and know it's not taking a toll on the environment," said EWEB spokesman Marty Douglass. "Wind energy is about the most environmentally benign energy source that we could get. I think from that standpoint, it fits this community better than any other energy source."

The plant is being built near Arlington, Wyo., in an area of Carbon County called Foote Creek Rim. The area is considered one of the windiest in the nation and is expected to generate a steady stream of wind power.

Groundbreaking occurred late in September, as the company poured concete to form bases for the 131-foot-high wind machines. "To quote a great American philosopher, `How sweet it is,'" said Rachel Shimshak, director of the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, who participated in the groundbreaking. "This shovelful of soil marks the dawn of a new industry for the Northwest, and the first new renewable energy contribution to a sustainable future for us and our children."

Copyright 1997 by the American Local Power News