First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, and Avista (NYSE: AVA) today 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.
In addition, First Wind announced it has 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.”
Avista Corporation is purchasing the energy produced by the Palouse Wind project under a 30-year power purchase agreement and will take delivery of the power through a direct interconnect to the Avista 230 kilovolt (kV) Benewah-to-Shawnee transmission line. This will be the first wind project built in Avista’s service territory and it will help Avista achieve its goal of meeting customers’ energy needs reliably and responsibly, while continuing a legacy of renewable energy.
In a separate agreement, First Wind and CIRI completed the tax equity financing deal last week. CIRI is an Alaska Native corporation.
“CIRI is pleased to partner with First Wind on the Palouse Wind project. CIRI’s decision to invest in this project was based on First Wind’s impressive track record as an experienced wind project developer, as well as with the overall strength of the Palouse project,” said Margie Brown, President and CEO of CIRI. “Palouse Wind is a good fit for CIRI and complements our diverse and developing portfolio of energy assets and experience.”
As the project achieves commercial operation, First Wind also reported the following milestones and associated economic benefits:
- More than $25 million spent to date directly with local businesses in Whitman County and the Inland Northwest;
- Over 600 different contract personnel logged more than 190,000 work- hours on the project site, which has averaged 210 workers during peak construction;
- Now that Palouse Wind is fully operational, Whitman County will receive approximately $12 million over the next 20 years in property tax revenues, or approximately $700,000 annually, which can be used to lower tax rates, improve schools, maintain roads and enhance local services.
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.”
The project was built by Madison, Wis.-based RMT, which has been the general contractor on seven of First Wind’s projects.
“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.
About First Wind
First Wind is an independent wind energy company that develops, finances, builds and operates utility-scale wind projects in the United States. Headquartered in Boston, First Wind operates wind projects in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii, with the capacity to generate up to 980 megawatts of power. For more information on First Wind, please visit www.firstwind.com or follow us on Twitter @firstwind.
Based in Anchorage, CIRI was established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 to benefit Alaska Natives with ties to the Cook Inlet region. The Company is owned by more than 7,600 Alaska Native shareholders. CIRI’s well-diversified portfolio of businesses and investments includes traditional and alternative energy and resource development, environmental services, oilfield and construction services, tourism and hospitality, real estate development, private equity and more.
Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is our operating division that provides electric service to 361,000 customers and natural gas to 320,000 customers. Our service territory covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.5 million. Avista’s primary, non-utility subsidiary is Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company with over 700 expense management customers, representing more than 600,000 sites. Our stock is traded under the ticker symbol “AVA.” For more information about Avista, please visit www.avistacorp.com.