BPA upgrade serves Oregon windfarm:

Edited by: Jack Odgaard


Circuit: a monthy publication of the Bonneville Power Administration Nov. 1998

The Northwest's first commercial wind project is now on line. BPA began delivering power from the Vansycle Ridge Wind Energy Project in northeastern Oregon last month. Vansycle is an example of BPA's role today to serve new loads and power sources in the region. BPA doesnŐt own part of the Vansycle wind farm. But BPA's transmission is a vital part of the project. The wind farm is a joint venture of FPL Energy, Inc. of Florida and Portland General Electric. FPL built the project and PGE buys and markets the energy. BPA wheels the power to PGE.

The wind farm is 20 miles northeast of Pendleton on a high ridge near the Washington border. It overlooks the Walla Walla valley. The project has 38 windmills with a combined cap-acity of nearly 25 megawatts. Each one can produce 660 kilowatts. The Vestas Company of Denmark made the state-of-the-art wind turbines.

The windmills tower 240 feet high above the ridge, from base to tip of the top blade. Each tower weighs nearly 80 tons. Each blade is 77 feet long, made of a fiberglass and epoxy compound. Each three-blade propeller has a 146-feet diameter.

FPL project manager C.S. "Collie" Powell says Vansycle should generate power "about seven months out of the year." The windmills need eight miles per hour wind to begin turning. "They reach full power at 23 to 24 mph winds," Powell says. He estimates the energy cost from the farm to be 65 to 70 mills.

Wind farms such as this are usually built in remote areas. While they avoid problems of heavy population centers, their remoteness can often present other challenges. So it was for Vansycle, especially BPA's part of the project.

FPL built a substation and put in a road to the site across several miles of rolling hills and wheat fields. It didn't have difficulty finding level sites along the ridge to build the windmills. BPA, though, had to rebuild and upgrade a power line that crosses high rolling hills and ravines with steep elevation changes. The longest span on the wood-pole line is 2,000 feet, and several others are nearly as long.

BPA's 40-mile line from Walla Walla to Pendleton dates to 1941. BPA didn't acquire access rights when it built the line. Workers then used all-terrain vehicles to get across the land. So BPA had to buy access and put in nearly five miles of access roads for its work.

To handle the new power supply, BPA needed to rebuild a portion of the line. It replaced 69-kV structures with 115-kV structures. To support the longest spans on the line, BPA built some 230-kV wood structures. BPA also upgraded the rest of the line by raising the height of 18 wood pole structures. BPA then put in new communications and metering equipment at Roundup Substation near Pendleton and new relays at Walla Walla.

People who worked on the Vansycle project praise the coordination among the groups involved. FPL especially complimented BPA for its efforts.

"Our workers on the site couldn't believe your crew got the line done in the time it did," FPL's Powell says. BPA's Pasco line crew did the work. Foreman Monty Ward says the time was about normal, "Although we worked many days in 100-degree-plus temperatures."

Towers over eastern Oregon -- (Top left) This bird's-eye view from atop a windmill tower shows some of the 38 units of the Vansyckle Wind Project in eastern Oregon. Each windmill reaches 240 feet above the ground, from base to the tip of the top blade. (Top right) BPA line foreman Monty Ward (left) and project engineer Kirk Robinson look at the finished work of BPA's line upgrade and tap at the wind project site. (Lower left) Vestas Co. technician Ramon Mendoza (right) explains to BPA's Ward how operators on the ground can adjust the pitch of the blades on a windmill. The two men are inside a windmill housing, called a nacelle, 170 feet above the ground.

BPA's Kirk Robinson says,"This may be BPA's fastest track project of its size in history." Rob-inson served as project manager and says, "BPA's work took just five months to complete from the contract signing in late March." BPA first energized the new line in early August.

"Normally it would take nine months to a year and a half," Robinson says. "But Al Komarek of the real estate group got access and right-of-way easements from virtually all landowners in record time."

FPL paid for the rebuild and split the cost with BPA for the upgrade. Robinson says the project significantly improves line reliability.

BPA's crew worked in some of the difficult terrain typical of the early years when BPA built the Northwest power grid. But it didn't encounter any environmental barriers. Still, as part of its routine stewardship, BPA seeded its access roads when the work was done. A grass cover by next spring will curb soil erosion from the BPA right-of-way.