Big wind power farm planned near Oakesdale

SPOKANE — A major wind power farm will be built in the Palouse this summer, Boston-based First Wind announced Tuesday.

The company will build 58 giant windmills between the town of Oakesdale and US 195. Each can produce 1.8 megawatts of electricity, for a total of 105 megawatts of power. Officials said Palouse Wind will produce enough power to serve 30,000 customers.

Construction will cost $210 million, First Wind said.

“We are also making a major investment in the economic future of the region with $30 million of direct (local) spending planned during construction and an additional $1.5 million each year once the project achieves commercial operations,” said Paul Gaynor, chief executive officer of First Wind.

The company has a 30-year agreement to sell the power to Avista, the Spokane-based utility that serves eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

“Palouse Wind will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while meeting renewable portfolio standards,” said Avista Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Morris.

First Wind said the windmills will only occasionally be visible from US 195.

Ben Fairbanks, director of business development in the Northwest for First Wind, said this is the first wind power facility in Whitman County.

The rolling hills of the Palouse allow the windmills to be placed at the top of ridges and oriented to most effectively capture the southwesterly winds, Fairbanks said.

“It’s a unique location and a great wind resource,” he said.

Construction is expected to be completed by November and the windmills will be online and operating by the end of the year.

Avista will take delivery of the power through its Benewah-to-Shawnee transmission line. This will be the first wind project built in Avista’s service territory.

During construction, it is estimated that the project will create about 150 jobs. Once Palouse Wind is operational, Whitman County will receive approximately $12 million over the next 20 years in property tax revenues, or approximately $700,000 per year.

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