For Portland, Generating Energy Is A Breeze

As Californians fret in the dark, questioning their energy options, Portland is taking a cue from Bob Dylan: The answer is blowing in the wind.

A new wind-energy plant near the Washington-Oregon border is slated to begin generating up to 300 megawatts of power per hour later this year. That's enough juice to light up 70,000 homes, or one-third of Portland's households. Once it's up and spinning, the Stateline development will nab the title of world's largest wind-energy project.

Until recently, wind-generated power has been prohibitively expensive. But in the past decade, better materials and more efficient turbines have lowered generating costs by 90%. At 4 cents-8 cents per kilowatt-hour, the project's superclean power will be competitive with electricity generated from natural gas. It's cheap enough, in fact, for Pacificorp Power Marketing Inc. (PPM), the wholesale regional distributor, to sign a 25-year contract with Florida-based FPL Energy LLC, the country's largest generator of wind energy. FPL Energy will build, own, and operate the Stateline project and will sell its output to PPM.

Of course, price isn't the only concern. You have to pick a windy spot--and make sure the locals don't mind. The plant must be "in the right place in terms of visual impact," says William R. Edmonds, PPM's environmental policy manager. Nor can it be too near to airplane routes or migratory bird flyways.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.