Pomeroy, Wash., April 4, 2011 — Puget Sound Energy late last week erected its first wind power turbine among the wheat fields and rangeland of southeast Washington’s Garfield County, where PSE is constructing its 343-MW Lower Snake River Wind Project — Phase I.
The first of the project’s 430-foot-tall turbines was completed Friday afternoon by the turbine manufacturer, Siemens Energy. When all 149 turbines are erected and operating in spring 2012, the facility will be PSE‘s largest wind power operation and one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest — generating enough electricity to serve up to 100,000 homes. Final assembly of the first turbine had been delayed for a week by high winds, gusting at times above 70 mph.
Huge cranes, with booms extending 390 feet into the air, are now setting in place the turbines’ tower sections, nacelles and three-blade rotors. Many of the nacelles — they contain the turbines’ gear boxes and power generators — are being manufactured at a Siemens plant in Hutchinson, Kan.
A Siemens factory in Fort Madison, Iowa, is producing all the Lower Snake River turbine blades. Each rotor is 331 feet in diameter — more than a football field’s length.
The turbine towers are bolted to concrete foundations that are up to 8½ feet thick and weigh in excess of 600 tons (equal to the weight of more than 100 bull elephants). The turbines themselves weigh more than 340 tons.
PSE and its lead contractor, RES Americas — together with Siemens Energy and various subcontractors — started building the Lower Snake River project in May 2010.
Over the past 11 months, project work has focused on building access roads and installing underground power cables that will deliver the turbines’ electricity to the large on-site substations now under construction as well.
About 150 construction workers, on average, are on the site, though the number can exceed 250 on a given day. About half the construction workers are from Eastern Washington, with about a quarter hailing from Washington’s southeast corner.
Besides creating local jobs, the project is generating a significant amount of commerce for local businesses, including lodging, restaurant, hardware, auto service and catering businesses.
Work also is progressing on the project’s operations and maintenance building on the outskirts of Pomeroy. The 15,000-square-foot O&M building along Falling Springs Road will contain office, warehouse and workshop space.
Opp & Seibold, from Walla Walla, is PSE’s general contractor. About 25 permanent employees from PSE and Siemens Energy will occupy the building once it opens this fall.
Siemens employees will be responsible for all maintenance of PSE’s Phase I wind turbines, while PSE’s staff will manage the production and transmission of the wind facility’s electric power.
With the completion of its Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility in 2005 and Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility in 2006, PSE became the United States’ second largest utility producer of wind power.
Phase I of the Lower Snake River Wind Project will boost the utility’s wind-power capacity by another 80 percent. All together, the three PSE wind facilities will produce enough electricity to serve about 230,000 households.