Oregon reviews request to delay, alter 400-MW Golden Hills Wind project

The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council will be taking public comment until March 4 on a recent request by Golden Hills Wind Farm LLC to delay the development of a 400-MW project.

The project would be located in northern Sherman County, on both sides of Highway 97, between the cities of Wasco and Moro.

The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), which provides staff to the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC), received in December a third Request for Amendment (RFA) to the previously-issued Site Certificate for the project. Golden Hills Wind Farm LLC, a subsidiary of Orion Renewable Energy Group LLC, wants to extend the construction start and completion deadline by two years, adjust the site boundary, change the type of wind turbines, reduce the number of turbines, and make changes to related and supporting facilities.

In 2009, the council issued the certificate for construction and operation of the Golden Hills Wind Project, a wind energy generation facility with electrical capacity of up to 400 MW. It approved the first amendment to the site certificate in 2012 and the second amendment in 2015.

The current RFA would reduce the total number of wind turbines at the site from a maximum of 267 to 125. The RFA would also increase the maximum turbine tower height to 95 meters (312 feet), from the current permitted maximum height of 80 meters (263 feet) at the rotor hub, and increase the maximum rotor sweep area to 126 meters (413 feet), from 96 meters (315 feet).

As amended, the project would transmit power to the Bonneville Power Administration grid via a 230-kV transmission line to an interconnection point just north of the existing BPA Klondike substation. The RFA eliminates a previously approved 500-kV transmission line and second substation.

Orion Renewable Energy Group has informed ODOE that it intends to submit additional information regarding the RFA in January 2016. ODOE will provide notice of this additional information as soon as it is available. 

This is only the first opportunity to comment on the amendment request. The department will also solicit comments after issuing the proposed order.

Said the RFA: “In short, this request is driven by technology updates and additional information about the project based on a refined Facility design and clarification of specific Facility requirements. These requested modifications to the Facility respond to recent changes in the wind energy market and enhance the feasibility of the proposed project, using equipment that is currently available in the market.”

Two prior amendments had both involved project delays

The first certificate amendment extended the construction start deadline from June 18, 2012, to June 18, 2014, and the completion deadline from June 18, 2015, to June 18, 2017. The second, filed in connection with a change in facility ownership, extended the construction start deadline from June 18, 2014, to June 18, 2016, and the completion deadline from June 18, 2017, to June 18, 2019. In this amendment request, the company is seeking to extend the construction start deadline from June 18, 2016, to June 18, 2018, and the completion deadline from June 18, 2019, to June 18, 2021, to allow necessary refinements to facility components.

“This third amendment is driven by the need to complete the review process with the Federal Aviation Administration, and to update and refine the Facility design in order to respond to recent changes in the wind energy market and enhance the feasibility of the proposed project, using equipment that is currently available in the market,” said the company.

The council previously authorized construction of up to 267 General Electric sle 1.5-MW turbines or any combination of turbines subject to specific restrictions. The proposed change in turbine tower height and rotor diameter will result in a net reduction in the total number of turbines, to a maximum of 125 turbines. The purpose of the change in turbine height and rotor diameter is to take advantage of improvements in turbine technology that allow fewer turbines to attain the previously approved maximum peak electric generating capacity of 400 MW. The modified 125-turbine layout results in corresponding modifications to the location of access roads, collector lines, and other project facilities, as well as construction areas such as crane paths and laydown areas.

Golden Hills seeks to eliminate the previously approved 500-kV transmission line to the Bonneville Power Administration’s John Day substation and the associated construction of one of the two approved substations. These related and supporting facilities are no longer needed based on a revised and updated facility design. The previously approved eastern substation will be relocated to the center of the site boundary and will serve as the single substation for the facility.

The location of the previously approved 230-kV transmission line will be modified to run from the proposed centrally located substation to the Hay Canyon 230-kV transmission line located near the southeast corner of the facility’s site boundary. From there, electricity will be transmitted using the existing Hay Canyon 230-kV line to its northernmost transmission pole structure near the Klondike Substation. From this location, Golden Hills will construct up to around 700 feet of new 230-kV transmission line and associated structures and equipment to interconnect the facility to BPA’s transmission structure located about 300 feet north of the Klondike substation.

A project contact is: Golden Hills Wind Farm LLC, Reid Buckley, Vice President, Orion Renewable Energy Group LLC, 155 Grand Avenue, Suite 706 Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 267-8921, rbuckley@orionrenewables.com.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.