ROSALIA, Wash – It's a $200 million dollar project right in the middle of the Palouse: a wind farm being installed by First Wind just south of Rosalia off Highway 195. When it's all finished, it will be home to 58 turbines, and will provide enough energy to power 30,000 homes.
The best part? That power stays right here in the Inland Northwest, and will go back into the grid for the Avista Utility company.
Work on the project began last year, but it's just been in the last month of so the rolling hills of the Palouse have started to change. The base towers are up, and deliveries of rotors half a football field long are rolling in on trucks from Pasco. They were carried there by train from Vestas' manufacturing facility in Colorado.
The land is leased from local farmers, who get royalties depending on the amount of turbines on their land, and their impact. The location was picked through a series of meteorological tests to determine wind activity; however, if there's too much wind, installing the giant pieces of equipment gets a little tricky.
"You can't lift [equipment] if the wind's over a certain amount, so in the last couple of weeks we've had to stand down because of wind, so that's presenting it's own challenge," said Aaron Pedigo, the Project Manager for First Wind.
Still, the project is on target to be operational by November.
The energy collected at each turbine goes through underground lines to a substation, which harnesses all the power coming in from the turbines at about 34,000 volts. Then a transformer converts it to a usable 230,000 volts, and it's sent back out to Avista's line just a few miles down the road.
A project that makes the cool breeze of the Palouse one of the hottest commodities in our region.
"We're standing on some of the most fertile wheat ground anywhere in the world," Pedigo added. "To have the opportunity to come in and install machines that are going to generate clean renewable power, it's a very rewarding activity."
Once the wind farm is up and running, nothing will change for Avista customers. Avista will buy the power from First Wind at a competitive rate, and it helps Avista meet the renewable energy standards in Washington.