PUD Gets Cold Feet Over 82MW
by James Cartledge
A public utility district in Washington State has refused to put a further $1.14 million towards the pre-construction costs of a proposed 82MW wind farm in Pacific County.
The Grays Harbor PUD, one of four public utilities behind the Radar Ridge project, said there are too many "what ifs" hanging over the plans for 32 turbines near Naselle in the west of the state.
The wind energy development is in a race against time to secure up to $122 million in federal bonds, which must be sold by January 2013.
The Board wants to make sure that we have covered all of our bases" - Rick Lovely, Grays Harbor PUD
But the PUD's Board of Commissioners wants a better assurances that the wind farm represents an attractive investment, "should the PUD choose to sell its interest in the future".
Grays Harbor PUD has already provided $845,000 for the project being developed along with power company Energy Northwest.
Rick Lovely, General Manager of Grays Harbor PUD, said that to go any further the utility district needed to know the wind farm would be a "viable renewable energy project" that would be "both environmentally responsible and economically wise".
Mr Lovely said: "We have too many 'what ifs' right now and need commitments from federal and state agencies to ensure we have the timelines and resources in place to move this project forward in a timely manner.
"We also need to conduct some additional analysis on the value of the project based on the latest information on forward markets to make sure it will be a valuable asset well into the future."
The Radar Ridge project is currently going through the permitting process, and one of the key outstanding issues is the project's potential impact on birds like the endangered marbled murrelet.
Three years of studies have been carried out on the bird, which has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act
Draft conservation plans and environmental information documents have been submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for review, which will determine whether a more costly environmental impact statement will be needed for the wind farm.
The request for an extra $1.14 million from Grays Harbor PUD assumes that such a statement will be needed.
Mr Lovely said: "We have taken an environmentally responsible approach to this project but don't feel it is prudent to invest more money without a strong and clear commitment from US Fish and Wildlife Service that we can move this process forward and bring it to a close in a timely manner."
The Grays Harbor commissioners also want assurances that the lease for the site will be extended by Washington State's Department of Natural Resources if more time is needed to secure permits.
"The Board wants to make sure that we have covered all of our bases and have built in contingency plans if there are any unexpected delays in the process," said Mr Lovely.
Negative Effect Negated by Data by Doug Miller, The Columbian, 8/27/9
No 'Winner' Needed by Editorial Board, The Columbian, 8/5/9
Wildlife Hinders Wind Farm Strategy by Kathie Durbin, The Columbian, 8/1/9
Proposed Wind Project Could Imperil Murrelet by Kathie Durbin, The Columbian, 7/27/9
Murrelet May Be In Way of Pacific Co. Wind Farm by Associated Press, The Daily News, 7/27/9
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