Wind Turbine Electricity Powers Western Washington

It complements the mighty Columbia River’s hydropower

CaliforniaGeo 9-28-18

 In 2015, hydropower electricity provided 8.6% of our nation’s total requirements.  However, the pace of hydropower construction has dropped to nearly nothing, and increased drought conditions are challenging some of our largest facilities to operate at their capacity.  Puget Sound Energy (PSE) of Bellevue, Washington has made several investments in renewable energy and their Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility near Ellensburg is the one covered here. 

Even with short-term intermittantcy of power production, commercial wind turbine development has been growing rapidly, in part because it’s not dependent on fickle rainfall.  Both wind and solar are becoming more desirable because they are renewable and emission-free.  The only time that either wind or solar energy wouldn’t contribute power to the grid from this facility is if the wind was less than 9 mph, over 56 mph, or at night.

Wild Horse features an effective visitor center that tells its story seven months a year, and CaliforniaGeo visited in September of 2018.  Below can be seen the wind and solar components that generate its electric power.  One hundred and forty nine wind turbines are capable of a continuous 273 Megawatts (273 million watts) and 2,400 solar panels can produce 500 Kilowatts (500,000 watts). 

The turbines are Vestas v80 models (from Denmark).  They are big, with a swept diameter of 262 feet.  The rotor is composed of three adjustable pitch blades that can fully “feather” into zero wind resistance to stop rotation intentionally, including when windspeed exceeds 56 mph.  The hub connects the rotor’s three blades with a schoolbus sized “nacelle,” housing a gearbox, generator, and a transformer which boosts voltage from 690v to 34,600v.  That last 34.6kv rating is about three times the voltage of your neighborhood’s secondary transmission line.  In accordance with Ohm’s Law, this higher voltage minimizes current loss while allowing far smaller conductors to carry this power (at less expense).

That nacelle is bolted to a swivel-capable fixture atop a 221-foot tower whose base is 13 feet in diameter.  And with the planetary gearbox alone weighing 17.5 tons, this structure is far heavier than any schoolbus.

PSE was able to take advantage of Wild Horse’s proximity to existing power lines to minimize infrastructure costs.  One of its two substations that deliver power to the grid connects to regional 115 KV lines that serve the Ellensburg area.  The second interties with 230 KV transmission lines in the Bonneville Power Administration’s grid, meaning these wind-generated electrons could be utilized anywhere in the Washington Oregon region.

Why does a wind farm with a solar component end up on a Blog for a geothermal heat pump association?  Good question.  The answer is that we are all partners.  We use the natural functions above and under the earth to assist with electrical power and thermal energy.

Our geo heat pumps run on electricity and provide lots of renewable heating and cooling from the earth.  Electricity that comes from renewable sources closes our circle—keeping everything natural, without emissions or pollution.  Electricity from above ground and thermal energy exchange from below is what can make us greener than green.

Building stock consumes 25% of the nation’s energy, so there is lots of room for improvement.  Renewable electricity and leveraged thermal energy to and from an underground source/sink is one of our strongest weapons against climate change.

Photo Gallery of Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse Facility—

(Click on an image and use arrows to scroll through the gallery)