World’s Largest Wind Farm to Be Built in the US

GE-2_5MW-Wind-Turbine-largeThe United States has steadily outsourced record-breaking feats of engineering over the years, or stood by as other countries have eagerly grasped trophies for the world’s tallest building, biggest dam, longest bridge, or what have you.

Which is why it is comforting to learn a World’s [   ]est is staying in America: Caithness Energy will begin construction next year in Oregon on the world’s biggest wind farm, with 845 MW of capacity.

The Shepherd’s Flat wind farm will utilize 338 of General Electric‘s next-generation 2.5 MW turbines (its 1.5 MW model is the world’s most popular, with 12,000 in use) spread out across 30 square miles of terrain just south of the Columbia River in north-central Oregon. The farm is predicted to generate about 2 billion kilowatt-hours per year, enough power for 235,000 homes.

The current largest wind farm is in Roscoe, Texas, with 781 MW of capacity. The English are planning a 1,000 MW off-shore farm, but only 630 of that will be built in the first stage.

Jobs for Oregon, MegaWatts for California

The $2 billion project will generate about 400 jobs during construction, and 35 running the farm, according to New York-based Caithness. General Electric will also provide ten years of maintenance for its turbines as part of its $1.4 billion contract.

Oregon has aggressively pursued renewable energy development, offering a 50 percent tax credit to offset capital costs. Caithness says it already has a “majority” of the permits needed for the farm, a crucial factor, according to USA Today.

The Shepherd’s Flat area is known for another type of renewable energy: hydropower, which is so abundant and cheap in the area that electrons from the wind farm won’t be able to compete, according to EarthandIndustry. Instead, that juice will be funneled to Southern California, where Southern California Edison has agreed to buy it for the next twenty years. SCE is racing to meet a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard of 33 percent by 2020.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.