UEC Moving Forward on Wheatridge Transmission Project

January 29, 2018

On the heels of a favorable ruling from a federal agency, Umatilla Electric Cooperative is taking the steps necessary to provide transmission services to the Wheatridge Wind Energy Facility.

The first step is preparing a permit application to build, operate and maintain a 230-kilovolt transmission line that would connect the project to a Bonneville Power Administration substation at Boardman, said Robert Echenrode, UEC’s CEO and General Manager.

UEC will coordinate with developer NextEra and a multitude of other stakeholders to identify the proposed route, secure landowner easements and prepare engineering design documents, Echenrode said.

Those activities must be completed before a permit application can be filed with Morrow County, he said.

On Jan. 18, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirmed Umatilla Electric Cooperative as the sole provider of transmission services to the 500-megawatt project.

UEC had been working with Wheatridge and other local, state and federal stakeholders for several years to plan the transmission line, but progress paused for a year while legal challenges worked their way through state and federal regulatory agencies.

The proposed transmission line is a key element of a “green energy corridor” that would connect wind and solar projects in southern Morrow County to the Northwest energy grid at Boardman. Combining energy projects in one corridor along or near Bombing Range Road would have several advantages, Echenrode said.

“It will maximize the region’s overall energy capacity and minimize disruption caused by future projects,” he said. “It can avoid or greatly minimize additional impacts to current uses by the Navy and irrigated farm land.”

Along with UEC, the Oregon Governor’s Office, the Navy, BPA, Bureau of Land Management, Morrow County, Idaho Power and a number of other state and local agencies have engaged in efforts that ultimately would support a green energy corridor. Such a corridor has the potential to deliver enough clean energy to power a city the size of Eugene and Salem combined.

Wheatridge received a site certificate to build the project from the Oregon Department of Energy in April 2017.

In September 2017, the Oregon Business Development Commission estimated that the $795 million Wheatridge project would add 20 to 25 new full-time jobs with average wages of $60,000, generate 250 to 300 construction jobs and create substantial economic benefits to lease holders and surrounding communities.

Over 16 years, the project would generate tens of millions of dollars in property taxes and community service fees to Morrow and Umatilla counties.

In light of the project’s economic and environmental benefits, “It’s urgent that we move forward on this project as expeditiously as possible,” Echenrode said.

Those interested in more information about UEC’s Wheatridge transmission project are welcome to contact UEC Government Relations Manager Alec Shebiel at alec.shebiel@umatillaelectric.com.