A proposed wind energy park in the hills above Doty that garnered talk in the community about potential new jobs and tax benefits has been officially put on hold through at least the end of next year.
EverPower, an energy project developer based in New York City, said this morning they were putting the proposed $230 million Coyote Crest Wind Energy Park off until at least 2013, citing the inability to find a buyer for the power the project would produce and an uncertainty regarding the pending expiration of a federal tax benefit for renewable power.
David McClain, regional director for EverPower Wind Holdings and based out of Portland, announced the postponement of the project to the Lewis County Economic Development Council’s breakfast Thursday morning.
“We are announcing today that we are not going to start construction on the project in 2012 until we can support a viable power sales solution for the project,” McClain told The Chronicle. “We’re going to continue to develop the project while also trying to work on commercial solutions.”
The Coyote Crest Wind Energy Park is projected to cost $230 million and would build 47 turbines on 3,000 acres of Weyerhaeuser-owned land — 44 of which would be in Lewis County and three in Pacific County — with a generation capacity of 120 megawatts of electricity. The project, once restarted, is expected to create at least 90 construction jobs; EverPower anticipates 10 full-time jobs and more than $2 million annually to local taxing districts once the project is complete.
A higher-than-normal water year has given the Northwest a glut of hydroelectric energy and softened the market for wind energy for the time being, McClain said. But while he expects that to correct itself in due time, McClain said the larger uncertainty was that coming out of Congress as the federal Protection Tax Credit, providing 2.1 cents in tax credits per kilowatt, has not been renewed beyond the end of 2012 and has caused uncertainty among potential investors in the wind power market.
“The federal tax laws important to this industry are going to expire at the end of 2012 and not going to be replaced,” McClain said. “To get that credit, you have to be operational by the end of 2012 and without a buyer, our project just can’t move forward yet.”
EverPower says the Coyote Crest project is unique in that its peak generation cycle will be in the winter, coinciding with the period of the highest power demand.
Lewis County Economic Development Council Director Dick Larman expressed disappointment with the news of the project being on hiatus, but noted EverPower’s comments that a similar project in New York was put on hold in 2010 and secured a contract this year.
“I think we tend to forget sometimes that economic development takes time sometimes — for example, there was a two-year process with Ritchie Bros. before they started building here,” Larman said. “I’m disappointed in the short-term, but I think EverPower in keeping with their investments here, I’m confident they’ll do something with this project.”
McClain expressed similar confidence, saying the market for renewable energy will be ripe in the future, and especially locally with the drawdown of TransAlta’s coal operation.
“On the long-term, the project still looks very viable,” McClain said.
Christopher Brewer: (360) 807-8235