Wind: Made in the U.S.A.
Energy’s new Hatchet
Ridge wind farm in northern California comes complete with an
"Made in the U.S.A." stamp, with mostly American-made components.
As new construction projects go in
economic times, Pattern Energy’s $200 million Hatchet Ridge
power project couldn’t have been scripted any
if President Barack Obama had written the story line himself.
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.
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
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 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.
"The federal support was extremely important—it was the
difference between the project providing and not providing an
acceptable rate of return," say Hardie.
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
"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
the Siemens’ wind power technologies and are pleased to
with Pattern as they take a leadership role in providing clean energy
to citizens in the Americas."
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
Energy received a
grant under the American Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA) that covered
30 percent of the cost of the Hatchet Ridge wind project.
"The site was a combination of a good wind resource with excellent site
vehicular access," says Hardie. "It was a remote area and
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
because along with avian issues, it is one of the biggest concerns
expressed by people living near wind farms. "You can’t hide a
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
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
If there are any significant fatalities—particularly of
species—the TAC can recommend additional mitigation measures,
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
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
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.
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 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
is backed by the private equity firm, Riverstone Holdings LLC.