Wind Farm

Wind turbine blades, roughly 220-feet in length, were shiped in Wednesday to the laydown yard just south of Rainier, Washington. Thirty-eight wind turbines will be installed on about 22,000 acres in south Thurston County and northern Lewis County.

What would a carbon-free environment mean for Centralia and its surrounding communities?

Cody Duncan, a business developer for TransAlta Corporation’s locally-based power plant, tackled the issue during an hour-long presentation last Friday at Centralia College’s Walton Science Center, as he discussed the conglomerate’s mandate to cease coal-fired operations by the end of 2025 and the possibility of converting the Big Hanaford Road facility into a solar thermal energy site.

Duncan visited Centralia College Friday as part of the Rising Tide Science Seminar Series.

Duncan noted the 2011 TransAlta Energy Transition Bill that saw the energy firm collaborate with The Governor’s Office, environmental groups and the community by promising to shut down its first boiler in 2020 and its second one in 2025 in an effort to transition to cleaner fuels.  

“We feel that based on some studies that we’ve seen, when we come off of coal at the end of 2025, there could be a transition period (an estimated 15 to 20 years) where we have to get some firm (see dependable) power,” explained Duncan, a lifelong Lewis County resident, as he detailed his company’s ongoing commitment to maintain a stable power grid.   

TransAlta’s forthcoming plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are also part of the state’s commitment to produce clean energy endorsed by Gov. Jay Inslee in May, when he signed a law requiring that 100-percent of Washington’s electricity emanate from clean energy sources by 2045. 

“Studies maybe show that Centralia isn’t needed beyond 2025. But if there is (a demand) based on the power that’s needed to bridge the gap to renewables, then why shouldn’t it be Centralia?” Duncan stated while mentioning that TransAlta is actively seeking a customer to launch a solar project on its property. 

He argued: “We’re located next to power lines. We feel there’s an opportunity. It’s a little more sunny on the other side of the state, but we’re still hoping to do a solar (initiative). It’s clean power for the grid. We have the land to do it on.” 

During his appearance, Duncan — who was first employed by TransAlta in 2004 as a coal miner — recounted his recent trip to a technology conference in Portland, where corporate reps from Microsoft and other firms confirmed the increased demand for energy to add more recharging stations for new vehicle models. 

Duncan shared his belief that TransAlta may be a “nice fit” for the added load discussed at the event. 

“It’s already there. There is a cost for the infrastructure to convert it, to change it. It’s not like it’s a greenfield site. We have all the transmission there,” he added. 

The crowd of students and assorted guests were also made privy to a contract signed by TransAlta to purchase a 49-percent interest in the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project this past May. Duncan described the facility as approximately 19,500 acres of land across Lewis County that will produce 136.8 megawatts of energy once its completed sometime during the tail end of 2019. 

After offering the audience a tutorial on how renewable energy methods work, including hydropower, geothermal, et. al., that typically employ turbines spun by a variant of energy force, Duncan introduced solar as a different type of process.

He conveyed how panels take on sunlight and how DC power is converted to AC power, with the end result being electron movement that creates energy. 

A concern in successfully adopting solar, Duncan continued, is not in the generation of energy, but in its storage. 

“Everybody talks about batteries as being the answer. I firmly believe they’re a big part of the answer, but you have to have the excess power to charge the battery. So, this is my fear when the coal power goes away, not only in Centralia, but all across the Pacific Northwest,” Duncan said. “Where you usually run into trouble and issues having enough power to keep the lights on is when you have steady periods of cold, cold spells with no wind.” 

And while the batteries could fill the gap over a day of adverse weather conditions, it was noted, there’s no clarity on whether those same batteries could sustain power over the course of two to three days. 

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(11) comments


Bird wackers and solar panels are all ok up to a point. Without major mass prime movers we'll have grid stability problems; enter large hydro like Mossyrock. Ditto days like today. It's cold wet and raining with little or no wind. Maybe commercial production of firewood is going to make a comeback?


The last time I checked, Lewis County PUD was bragging that something over ninety percent of the energy they sell is hydroelectric. There is no point beyond which renewables’ contribution to a hydroelectric power grid isn’t “ok”. The grid operators hardly even need to care about how many distributed energy generation systems come online to balance grid power. We really need to be sure that the hydroelectric system can hold the load without the renewables’ contribution. If it can hold the full load, turning down the power output of a hydroelectric station is as simple as closing water valves, and just about as immediate. Adding renewables to the power grid simply means we don’t have to use the hydroelectric energy, and we keep that extra water above the turbines until we do need it. It is essentially a storage battery.

We’re lucky in the Pacific Northwest. This will work for us, and pretty easily. It’s not as easy everywhere else in the country.


To a point you're correct, but it's never as simple as just throttling back the water flow. Rivers have minimum and maximum flow levels that MUST be maintained throughout the year. River flow level requirements come way before generation goals. Cowlitz Falls is a run of the river facility meaning it has almost no real storage capacity and must maintain a constant flow once the rains and cold weather come. You can't just store water until you want to use it, at least not at Cowlitz Falls.


You can until the sun comes up or the wind blows again.

Frosted Flake

Extremely disappointing.

Let's do some math. Our 1300 megawatt 24/7/365 plant will be replaced with 130 occasional megawatts, which will also require 20,000 acres of forestland be decommissioned to set up bird killers. And that's a good thing?

Now lets look at the future. In the next 25 years all our Nuke Plants will be retired, cutting our power supply by 20%. At the same time the electric car will replace the ICE car, doubling electric demand. Extrapolating current plans, we are looking eyes open at nationwide rolling blackouts. Other countries have similar problems. there are two ways to solve them. Burn oil, or burn atoms.

Cutting to the atoms, there are two ways to burn atoms. The way we have been, and THE SMART WAY. Here is Kurt Sorenson explaining Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors in 5 minutes.

Why don't we use that reactor? President Nixon wanted jobs in California, and this reactor was in Tennessee. The California reactor burst into flames and melted down 4 times (because that is what it was designed to do) and when they gave up, they did not go back to Tennessee. By then there was a law intended to protect Westinghouse & GE from competition, preventing Americans touching Thorium. That law is gone. But our government has worked very hard to give Thorium to China.

China, if you didn't know, is not a friend of ours. Their Navy is as big as ours and they have built a trap for our Navy in the South China Sea. That means exactly what you think it does. They are preparing for war. Giving then this reactor will not only give China unlimited carbon free power, they will also be able to see reactors to the rest of the World, giving China unlimited MONEY.

Money that would be ours if we gave the Strip Mine to an American company that wants to build a reactor factory. The difference is trillions of dollars and whose hands they land in. Is Lewis County so grasping as to be unwilling to give away a hole in the ground to create opportunity to be wealthy, strong, and free for our children. And grand children. And their grandchildren. And theirs. And theirs. And theirs...?

Call Flibe Energy, and make an offer.


Shocking that it will take 19,500 + 22,000 acres of pristine land to generate a miniscule amount of electricity. Hydro has been creating clean cheap energy for decades. The salmon have thrived. Orcas have thrived. Now it seems, the only thing thrivingnis Agenda 21 and seals, we have lots of seals.

Frosted Flake

I am wondering why my comment is not posted.


You must have made an unpopular but insightful point.


Perhaps it was too long and rambling?


"YourNeighbor Oct 9, 2019 8:07am

You can until the sun comes up or the wind blows again."

No you can't, unless you're willing to build pump storage. Let's say that Tacoma City Light gets a call for more electricity due to a still air day. They can produce that at Mossyrock, but only to the point that Mayfield is full. Depending on the time of the year, the outflow from Mayfield Dam can not be changed by very much do to fish runs. It has to run along at a predetermined rate of water flow. Cowlitz Falls is even worst. It's not a huge storage like Riffe Lake is. If it rains a lot the produce a lot. If it's dry, they have nothing to produce with since there is no extra reservoir storage space. It makes power only with whatever the Cowlitz River has to work with. No magic boxes to store water in for future needs. Attend one of the open houses TCL puts on. It's a good opportunity to learn how hydro operates.


Thanks for the tip, I’ll seek it out.

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