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Hatchet Ridge Wind: Made in the U.S.A.

Pattern Energy’s new Hatchet Ridge wind farm in northern California comes complete with an unofficial 
"Made in the U.S.A." stamp, with mostly American-made components.

By Tony Kryzanowski

As new construction projects go in today’s tough economic times, Pattern Energy’s $200 million Hatchet Ridge wind power project couldn’t have been scripted any better—even if President Barack Obama had written the story line himself.

The 101.2 megawatt wind power project, located in financially challenged California, produces alternative energy, supplied 200 jobs during the construction phase and 10 permanent jobs now that it is generating power, and used mostly American components in the Siemens turbines and balance of plant hardware. The wind farm began producing power in October 2010. 

Pattern Energy project developer George Hardie says it was only happy coincidence that most of the hardware components were from suppliers in the U.S. The company does not mandate American-made components. Nor was it a requirement for the project to receive American Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA) grant funding. 

The ARRA grant received by Pattern Energy for this project represented 30 percent of its cost. Hardie says the ARRA funding was critical for the project to proceed because it filled the gap vacated by previous tax-savings oriented investors, most of whom vacated the tax equity market after the 2008 financial meltdown.
"The federal support was extremely important—it was the difference between the project providing and not providing an acceptable rate of return," say Hardie.

The 44-turbine project was the only large-scale wind project completed in California in 2010, but the state is still the third largest producer of wind energy in the U.S., behind Texas and Iowa.

Hatchet Ridge produces enough energy on an annual basis to supply 44,000 homes. It will also offset 134,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and equals the annual emissions of 21,000 cars. In terms of economic benefit, it will generate $20.8 million in much needed property taxes in California and specifically Shasta County. It currently is the second largest taxpayer in the county. The company made a further $5 million contribution to the local community through various Shasta Regional Community Foundations.

The project is on land leased from two property owners, Sierra Pacific Industries and the Fruit Growers
Supply Company. Sierra Pacific Industries is described as the largest private land owner in the United States and a large forest, timber, and wood product manufacturing company. Hardie says conditions for maintaining access to other land values, such as the timber resource, are clearly laid out in the long-term lease agreement the company has with both landowners.

The Hatchet Ridge project was initiated by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) North America, and
later purchased by Pattern Energy.

RES America Construction Inc. built the infrastructure supporting the turbines, and Siemens Energy erected 44 of its SWT-2.3-93 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 2.3 megawatts. Siemens manufactured the turbine blades at its facility in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Ameron International of Fontana, California, built the turbine towers. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will purchase the wind farm’s electricity under a 15-year power purchase agreement.

"We have an outstanding relationship with Siemens, they make a great turbine, and the turbine worked very well for the Hatchet Ridge site," says Hardie. Siemens has now worked with Pattern Energy on several projects.

"The Hatchet Ridge wind farm was our first project awarded by Pattern Energy, followed by the St. Joseph wind farm in Canada," says Jan Kjaersgaard, general manager and vice-president of Siemens Energy Wind Power Americas. "We greatly value Pattern Energy’s confidence in the Siemens’ wind power technologies and are pleased to partner with Pattern as they take a leadership role in providing clean energy to citizens in the Americas."


Pattern Energy received a grant under the American Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA) that covered 30 percent of the cost of the Hatchet Ridge wind project.

Evaluating the wind generation capability of the Hatchet Ridge site, the permitting process and construction took almost five years. RES started evaluating the site in 2005 and Pattern Energy became involved in 2007.

"The site was a combination of a good wind resource with excellent site vehicular access," says Hardie. "It was a remote area and didn’t appear to have any significant environmental issues. The site was also directly adjacent to an interconnection point on a transmission line that had significant injection potential to put at least 100 megawatts on the system."

The permitting process was particularly time consuming. Hardie described California as "a very difficult permitting environment."

Despite its remote site in northern California, easy access to the Hatchet Ridge site during the construction phase was a major bonus.

"For a remote site, it had spectacular site access for construction, and that was a huge positive," says
Hardie. "There was a timber road right off of Highway 299. You go east on Highway 299, you turn left, and you are right on the site. For a mountainous site in the Sierra Nevadas, it was very accessible and relatively easy to construct."

In terms of environmental concerns, Pattern Energy did have to relocate some turbines to avoid certain sensitive plant species. The biggest challenge during the construction phase was the decision to build during winter due to economic considerations, and that meant dealing at times with a lot of mud, snow, and ice.

Although the area is not heavily populated and there are no residences within two miles of the wind farm, there was significant concern among some residents of the nearby town of Burney about the aesthetics of the project, but the issue has not lingered and was relatively short term.

"There was a fair amount of concern among various local groups about the visual impact of the project because, from the main street in Burney, there is a panoramic view of the ridgeline and the majority of the turbines," says Hardie. He wasn’t surprised by the feedback because along with avian issues, it is one of the biggest concerns expressed by people living near wind farms. "You can’t hide a big wind turbine, but our feeling and my experience from developing wind projects over 20 years is that people are always concerned about visual impact. But once the project is built, it becomes an accepted part of the landscape."

Hardie added that the issue is really a question of personal preference. Some people think wind turbines are beautiful, and others don’t like them.

Speaking of avian issues, Pattern Energy believes that bird fatalities are going to be "very, very light" at Hatchet Ridge. Based upon more than two years of pre-construction surveys of the area, the company concluded that it is a relatively light raptor and avian habitat. However, the project has a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) consisting of representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, California Fish and Game, the local Audubon Society, Shasta County, and Pattern Energy to monitor the
issue. The company is conducting at least three years of post-destructive monitoring, which includes a twice monthly survey of the turbines and surrounding areas to see if the project is causing any bird mortalities.

If there are any significant fatalities—particularly of protected species—the TAC can recommend additional mitigation measures, and in a worst case scenario, could require curtailment of individual turbines on a seasonal or diurnal basis.

Furthermore, based upon the latest studies, the industry’s knowledge of bird and bat mortalities at wind farms is rapidly improving. For example, the latest bat studies from operational projects around the U.S. show that by simply raising the cut-in speed from 3 to 4 meters per second to 4.5 to 5.5 meters per second, bat mortalities can be reduced between 50 and 80 percent.

The company has considerable experience implementing methods to avoid avian mortalities.


The Hatchet Ridge project is on land leased from two property owners, Sierra Pacific Industries and the Fruit Growers Supply Company. Conditions for maintaining access to other land values, such as the timber resource, are laid out in the long-term lease agreement Pattern Energy has with both landowners.

Pattern Energy’s fully operational 283.3 megawatt Gulf Wind project, located on the Gulf Coast in south Texas, includes the world’s first use of groundbreaking Merlin Scada radar technology to protect avian populations. It detects the volume of birds within the vicinity of the wind farm, and should the volume exceed a set threshold, the wind farm will shut down. A similar system is being installed to protect bat populations at the company’s wind project in Spring Valley, Nevada. Hardie says given that the Hatchet Ridge project is not on a major migratory route, this technology was not employed in California.

Pattern Energy can be described as a fast-growing wind developer with transmission assets in the United States, Latin America, and Canada. Its development pipeline exceeds 4000 megawatts of renewable energy projects and power. It has 384.4 megawatts of wind energy in operation in the U.S., as well as the 138-megawatt St. Joseph wind project that it recently commissioned in southern Manitoba, Canada. It hopes to build a second phase on that project.

The company has also signed a joint-venture with Samsung in Ontario, Canada, to build at least 1000 megawatts of projects in the province, with other new projects slated for Nevada, California, and Puerto Rico. The company was formed by former executives of Babcock & Brown and is backed by the private equity firm, Riverstone Holdings LLC.


March/April 2011