Puget Sound Energy, Inc. (Puget Sound Energy) has purchased full ownership rights to develop the Lower Snake River wind energy project on August 5, 2009. The project was launched as a joint development partnership between Puget Sound Energy and RES Americas Inc. (RES Americas) in December 2008. As the sole owner of the project, Puget Sound Energy will oversee all development, design and construction of the wind facility, as well as its operations when in service.

“Wind power works in Southeast Washington, and Puget Sound Energy is focused on bringing this new source of clean, renewable energy and economic opportunity to full operation in Columbia and Garfield counties,” said Paul Wiegand, vice president of power generation. “The local community support and the progress we’ve made so far in developing the Lower Snake River project gives us great confidence for the next phases of permitting, construction and operation.”

RES Americas will remain part of the utility’s team, with responsibility as the project’s prime construction contractor. The utility expects initial construction on support infrastructure to begin in 2010, and the first phases to enter commercial energy production in 2011.

“RES Americas supports PSE’s proactive commitment in bringing clean and safe renewable energy to the state and its communities, and we look forward to our continued partnership with PSE and others in helping meet their energy needs,” said Craig Mataczynski, chief executive officer of RES Americas.

A conditional use permit (CUP) application for the project was filed in January 2009 in Garfield county, with a CUP expected to be filed in Columbia County later in 2009. According to the January 2009 CUP application, the Lower Snake River wind energy project will have the capacity to produce as much as 1,432 megawatts (MW) from up to 795 wind turbines when completed. A draft environmental impact study associated with the permit application for the project is now available for public comment with the planning agencies in Garfield and Columbia counties.

The Lower Snake River wind energy project builds on the utility’s experience in Southeast Washington, where its Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility has been in operation since November 2005 outside the Columbia County city of Dayton. In addition to the Hopkins Ridge facility itself, the utility maintains an office in downtown Dayton, as well as an office in the Garfield county city of Pomeroy to support the Lower Snake River development.

“Wind power, PSE and the community have a great track record together, and a great future together,” said Wiegand. “The Lower Snake River project will add to our state’s clean energy resources, while at the same time bringing new economic opportunities for families in Dayton, Pomeroy and Starbuck.”

According to a recent economic impact statement conducted on behalf of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA), the existing Columbia County wind facilities, which include the Marengo Wind Project owned by PacifiCorp, Portland, Oregon, have a capacity of 366 MW, as compared to the potentially 1,400 MW outlined in the Lower Snake River permit applications. The SEWEDA study, conducted independently by Entrix, a Vancouver, Wash., economic consultant, concluded that the current wind facilities in Columbia county accounted for more than 50 direct and indirect full-time, permanent jobs during operations and nearly 190 temporary jobs during construction, increasing local income by $3.4 million annually during operations and $2.2 million annually during construction.

In addition to the Lower Snake River project and Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility, Puget Sound Energy, owns and operates the Wild Horse wind and solar facility in Kittitas county. Concurrent with developing the Lower Snake River project, Puget Sound Energy is adding 44 MW of increased capacity at Wild Horse through an expansion now underway.