PacifiCorp proposes big new wind power investments
PacifiCorp, which now generates nearly 60 percent of its electricity from coal, is planning to make a big new commitment to wind power.
The six-state utility, whose Pacific Power unit delivers about 27 percent of the electricity consumed in Oregon, released a long-range power plan on Tuesday that foresees building 1,100 megawatts of new wind power capacity while also retrofitting an additional 900 megawatts — all by the end of 2020.
The utility currently owns or purchases 2,333 megawatts of wind resources.
Under the the plan, the company’s energy mix would fall from 59 percent coal in 2017 to 42 percent in 2021, rise again to 49 percent by 2025, before sliding to 31 percent coal in 2036. Natural gas, now at 14 percent, is projected to provide 30 percent of PacifiCorp’s power by 2036.
The new wind capacity is planned for Wyoming, which has one of the nation’s strongest resources. It would require PacifiCorp to build a 140-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line there to open up room for the power on its grid.
In all, the company’s 2017 integrated resource plan proposes investing $3.5 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“These investments will significantly increase the amount of clean renewable energy serving customers and reduce costs at the same time,” said Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power in a release. “This is a win-win and represents our continued commitment to both reduce the environmental impact of the energy we produce and keep costs low.”
Like Portland General Electric, which serves about 38 percent of the Oregon’s electricity, Pacific Power has to meet the state’s rising renewable portfolio standard. That law, enhanced last year, requires the utilities to get 27 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and 50 percent by 2040, while eliminating coal-fired electricity imports by 2030.
With its current portfolio and plenty of banked renewable energy credits, Pacific Power is in good shape to meet the RPS for years to come. So why the big move for new and repowered wind in the next few years?
It comes down to the Production Tax Credit, the 2.3 cents-per-kilowatt-hour federal incentive for wind power. At the end of last year, the PTC began to decline for projects not yet under construction, but by purchasing the turbines before the deadline, PacifiCorp was able to get “safe harbor” to qualify the Wyoming and repowering projects for the full PTC.