Bonneville Power Admin. approving 75 MW Whistling Ridge wind power project

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The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) said in a notice to be published in the July 14 Federal Register that it is issuing its record of decision approving the final Whistling Ridge Energy Project Environmental Impact Statement from 2011.

Under the proposed action, BPA will offer Whistling Ridge Energy contract terms for interconnection of WRE’s planned Whistling Ridge Energy Project with its high-voltage transmission system, called the FCTRS.

WRE’s project will be an up to 75 MW facility located in Skamania County, Washington. WRE has received approval to construct and operate the wind power project from the governor of Washington, based on the recommendation of the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC).

WRE is a limited liability company created by SDS Lumber Co.

To allow the interconnection of WRE’s project to the FCRTS, BPA will construct and operate a new 230-kV substation and associated facilities that will connect into BPA’s existing North Bonneville-Midway 230-kV transmission line, which passes through the southern portion of the project site. BPA also will execute a large generation interconnection agreement (LGIA) with WRE to provide interconnection services for the project.

In 2009, WRE submitted an Application for Site Certification to Washington EFSEC to construct and operate the Whistling Ridge Energy Project. EFSEC is a Washington state agency that was created to provide a “one-stop” state licensing agency for certain energy facilities in Washington.

Energy facilities that exclusively use renewable energy resources (such as wind, solar, geothermal, landfill gas, wave or tidal action, or biomass energy) can “opt in” to the EFSEC review and certification process. WRE elected to opt in to the EFSEC process through submittal of its application.

In April 2012, two environmental groups — Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area (collectively called "Friends") — filed a petition in Washington state court for judicial review of the governor’s approval and execution of the Site Certificate Agreement (SCA) for the Whistling Ridge Energy Project. Friends primarily challenged the SCA and whether it, and the process leading up to it, complied with various statutory and regulatory requirements.

In August 2013, the Washington Supreme Court found no basis to reverse EFSEC’s recommendation or the governor’s approval of the wind project.

The project will include up to 35 wind turbines, each ranging from 1.2 to 2.5 MW in generating capacity, which will be installed in “strings” generally along ridgelines within the project site. Turbine towers will be about 221 to 265 feet tall at turbine hub height, and up to 426 feet tall including blades. The turbines will all be the same model, although height may vary in response to terrain.

BPA will construct a new substation (currently referred to as the Little Buck Substation) to interconnect the project to the FCRTS. The new BPA substation will be located adjacent to the project’s collector substation in the southern portion of the project site, near the southernmost BPA transmission line corridor that passes through the site. BPA’s existing Underwood Tap to Bonneville Powerhouse 1- North Camas 115-kV transmission line runs along the northern side of this corridor, while BPA’s existing North Bonneville-Midway 230-kV transmission line runs along the southern side of the corridor.

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