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PGE Announces New Boardman Gas Plant

Portland General Electric Co. announced Monday it will build a new 440-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Boardman as part of its effort to boost resources and meet growing customer demand.

The utility also plans to buy the development rights for a 267-megawatt wind farm in southeast Washington, and signed a non-binding agreement with Bonneville Power Administration to discuss acquiring 1,500 megawatts of transmission capacity.

As a result, PGE suspended the permitting and development of its own 122-mile, 500-kilovolt Cascade Crossing transmission line proposed from Boardman to a substation near Pine Grove. Spokesman Steven Corson said the added capacity from BPA should meet customers’ needs without building a new transmission line — though there is no assurance the negotiations will end in a binding agreement.

“At least in theory, that looks like it should be achievable,” Corson said.

PGE will build the natural gas power plant in Boardman next to its current coal-fired generating station, with a single turbine capable of producing enough electricity for about 300,000 residential customers. It is scheduled to come online by 2016, creating 500 construction jobs in the area and 20 full-time positions when the facility is finished.

The Lower Snake River wind farm is already under development by Puget Sound Energy Inc. near Dayton, Wash., northeast of Walla Walla. PGE will buy the rights for Phase Two of the project, creating another 300 construction and 18 full-time jobs.

The wind farm will also help PGE meet its state-required renewable portfolio standard that requires the utility supply 15 percent of the power it delivers from qualifying renewable sources by 2015.

PGE will spend an estimated $990 million combined on the two projects, as part of its integrated resource plan to meet customers’ electricity needs over the next 20 years. The Oregon Public Utility Commission acknowledged the plan in November 2010.

“These two new resources will serve our customers with clean, cost-effective, efficiently generated power for decades to come,” said Jim Piro, PGE’s president and CEO.

The agreement with BPA, signed May 30, reflects the opportunity to secure lower-cost transmission that would reduce impacts on the environment, the companies said. The increased capacity would meet PGE’s retail customer needs for the next 10 years, without moving forward with Cascade Crossing.

Suspending Cascade Crossing is not an easy decision, Piro said, but is “the right thing to do for our customers, the region and the environment.”

PGE will lose approximately $31 million during the second quarter for 2013 following the suspension of Cascade Crossing, but filed an application with the public utility commission to defer the costs for possible future recovery.

Larry Bekkedahl, senior vice president of BPA transmission services, also said the collaboration with PGE could “provide potential ratepayer benefits and could enhance transmission system utilization” in a separate announcement Monday.

PGE is the largest utility in Oregon, serving 830,000 customers over 4,000 square miles from Portland to Salem, and Mount Hood to Hillsboro.

Contact George Plaven at or 541-564-4547.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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