Commercial Operations Begin at Palouse Wind Project

First Wind and Avista have begun commercial operations at the Palouse Wind Project in Eastern Washington. First Wind will also complete $50 million tax equity financing with Cook Inlet Region, Inc. for the 105 MW wind project.

First Wind and Avista have announced that construction of the Palouse Wind project has been completed and commercial operations have begun. Located in Eastern Washington, the 105 megawatt (MW) First Wind project will be included in Avista’s diverse resource portfolio and will have the capacity to generate enough renewable wind energy to power the equivalent of approximately 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes. First Wind has also obtained a $50 million tax equity financing from Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI).

“We are very pleased to complete work on our Palouse Wind project and begin generating clean, renewable wind energy right here in Eastern Washington. This is our first project in Washington, and we’re proud to be a part of this community,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “It is a testament to our partners, including Avista, whose commitment to the acquisition of competitive clean energy for its customers was critical in moving this project forward and our tax equity partner, CIRI, whose investment underscores the strength of this project.”

The 105 MW project features 58 state-of-the-art Vestas V100-1.8 MW turbines installed at the project site situated between the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 on the hills surrounding Naff Ridge. During construction, the Palouse Wind project pumped more than $25 million of direct spending into the regional economy and created hundreds of construction-related jobs and drove significant revenue for local businesses. Now in full commercial operations, the Palouse Wind project will continue to contribute to the local economy and is now the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County.

“It’s good for our customers and communities to have Palouse Wind right in our backyard,” said Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities. “Palouse Wind will help us continue to provide our customers with renewable energy at some of the lowest prices in the country, while benefitting the local economy with jobs and tax revenues.”

The project features Vestas 58 V-100 turbines. Christian Venderby, Chief Operating Officer for Vestas’ sales and service division in the U.S. and Canada, said, “We are fortunate to work with First Wind again to complete another homegrown energy project. The blades, towers and nacelles, which houses components such as the generator and gearbox, were made at our factories in Colorado. Vestas also has hired skilled people in operations in to ensure the turbines are running safely and efficiently. The V100-1.8 MW turbine is ideally suited for the wind speeds of the Palouse. These high-tech turbines will deliver clean, predictable and pollution-free power for many years.”

“We are very dedicated to First Wind and proud to extend our support of their efforts as a premier wind energy developer,” says Dave Kutcher, President of RMT. “Our team very much appreciates the support of the Eastern Washington community, and its suppliers and vendors in our efforts on this important energy project. In addition, RMT was able to provide its construction services without a single injury or lost time incident, a result we are most proud to have accomplished.”

After four years of preparation, community engagement, and planning, First Wind received a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Palouse Wind in May 2011. Avista announced in June 2011 that it would purchase the power from First Wind’s Palouse Wind project. Construction work began in October 2011 and, shortly thereafter, First Wind secured $210 million in construction financing.