A project to construct and install 122 turbines across the landscape near Hagerman, Bliss and Burley is now complete and Idaho’s largest network of wind farms is now in operation and delivering power to the Idaho Power Company.
The completion of the $500 million project, backed by global giant GE Energy Financial Services, was announced during the Infocast Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit in San Diego.
The wind farms are a partnership between GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE, Exergy Development Group, Atlantic Power Corporation and Reunion Power.
Construction was completed in just five months, resulting in the installation of 122 1.5 megawatt turbines.
The wind farms are capable of generating 183 megawatts of energy — enough to power 39,700 average Idaho homes.
The project is actually 11 separate wind-farm developments that Exergy is building at the same time and was inaugurated in August by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, GE Energy Financial Services CEO Alex Urquhart, and representatives of Exergy and Reunion Power, an asset management company based in Manchester Center, Vt.
Eight wind farms are located in Hagerman and three are in Burley.
Despite the distance, they are able to operate as a unified system, enabling operating efficiencies, or on a site-by-site basis.
“Today marks a significant milestone for residents of Idaho who can now power their homes with cleaner, independently sourced energy,” said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of Power and Renewable Energy at GE Energy Financial Services. “In addition to increasing our nation’s energy independence, these wind farms provide enormous environmental benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the removal of 57,000 cars from the roads. We also were able to bring temporary and permanent jobs to a region that has been dramatically impacted by the economic slowdown.”
The project created over 300 construction jobs, more than the originally anticipated 175 jobs. Approximately 25 permanent jobs also were created for maintenance and other critical functions.
In addition to those employed directly a wind project of this size would typically support the equivalent of 2,200 full-time jobs in the United States for one year, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory model.
“After five years of intense planning, followed by five months of construction, we achieved our goal of creating Idaho’s largest wind farm portfolio,” said James Carkulis, president and CEO of Exergy. “We are now able to transition into ongoing operations, providing the customers of Idaho Power Company with a more environmentally friendly energy solution.”
Construction, led by Fagen, Inc., was completed on schedule despite a tight schedule and occasionally extreme weather at the project site.
All 11 project sites have individual agreements with Idaho Power Company under the guidelines of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act which requires utilities to purchase energy from small renewable generation projects such as hydro, wind, geothermal and solar.
In Idaho code, renewable energy producers can avoid up-front taxes by paying 3 percent from the sale of energy over several years — allowing developers to spread the tax burden out over multiple years.