Avanagrid Renewables, which already has nearly 1,300 megawatts of operating wind power in the region and is building a big project that will sell its output to Apple, has acquired a permitted but unbuilt project in the Columbia River Gorge.
But don’t count on the 400-megawatt Golden Hills Wind Farm breaking ground soon.
With the acquisition from Orion Renewable Energy Group, Avangrid Renewables is asking state regulators to extend the deadline for beginning construction on the Sherman County project from June 2018 to June 2020.
Laura Beane, president and CEO of Avangrid Renewables, said that like any potential project, Golden Hills won’t be built unless and until the Portland-based company has a power purchase agreement in hand.
The immediate future of wind development is in some doubt as the House and Senate consider tax measures that could trim incentives. But Beane said she thinks in the long term, demand from utilities and corporations looking to green their profiles will mean projects are likely to be built in the Northwest.
“Having a pipeline of projects that you can develop is key,” Beane said. “You’re basically setting up options.”
Other major developers seem to have a similar mindset. This year has seen three other significant moves in the Gorge:
Pattern Energy Group bought Summit Ridge Wind, a Wasco county project;
Capital Power Corporation filed for a site certificate for the Nolin Hills Wind Power Project in Umatilla County;
and NextEra Energy Resources, the nation's largest generator of renewable energy, acquired the Wheatridge Energy Wind Energy Facility in Morrow and Umatilla counties.
Golden Hills’ history demonstrates the speculative nature of wind project development in the region. It got a site certificate from Oregon regulators in 2009, has changed hands once before, and has seen its construction-start deadline pushed out twice already.