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Oregon Wind Farm Receives Landmark Award for Minimizing Environmental Impact

Designers of the Tucannon River Wind Farm bought local materials, minimized concrete use and chose turbine locations carefully in order to reduce the project's impact.

by / November 11, 2015

As if the presence of a wind farm wasn’t green enough, a utility-owned wind turbine array just north of the Oregon border has received a landmark award for having even less impact on its natural surroundings than usual.

The Tucannon River Wind Farm, located near Dayton, Wash., but supplying power to a Portland utility company, has received the first ever gold award given to an energy project in North America from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision program. According to a Monday press release from the utility, Portland General Electric, the team that set up the wind farm incorporated several life-extending and environmental impact-minimizing concepts into the design:

  • The team purchased “a significant portion” of the construction materials from local sources, reducing transportation costs.
  • Designers used a minimum amount of concrete for the base of the turbines. The production of concrete adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
  • Crews took the material excavated to make way for the turbines and re-used it on-site.
  • Most of the material used for the project can be recycled when the wind farm reaches the end of its lifespan.
  • The wind farm was deliberately sited to avoid groundwater so it couldn’t introduce any kind of contamination.
  • The turbine placement avoids wetlands, steep slopes, floodplains and other fragile or potentially volatile environments. They are resilient to floods, fires and extreme temperatures and winds.

The project is also quite large in terms of generation capacity — according to the statement, the wind farm consists of 116 turbines that will produce an average of 101 megawatts, or enough to power 84,000 homes. The yearly production should be about 676,000 megawatt hours produced with 92 percent less greenhouse gas emission than a regular power plant.

PGE is subject to a state mandate, the Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring the utility to generate 25 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2025.

As of last year, the utility is already meeting that goal — 18 percent of its electricity came from hydropower and another 8 percent came from wind and solar, combining for 26 percent total. The Tucannon River Wind Farm came online in December.

The farm is situated near a few other turbine arrays in a pocket of higher wind speeds in eastern Washington. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, winds near Dayton consistently blow at 6-7 meters per second. Oregon itself is home to a much larger cluster of wind farms along an inland stretch of the Columbia River.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, 12.4 percent of Oregon’s power came from wind in 2013.

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