The Nine Canyon Wind Project is located in south-central Washington just south of Kennewick. Constructed in three phases between 2002 and 2007, the project includes 63 wind turbines with a maximum generating potential of 95.9 megawatts of electricity.
Phases I and II included a total of 49 Siemens brand turbines each capable of producing 1.3 megawatts. The third phase added 14 larger turbines, each capable of producing 2.3 megawatts of power, for a total of 63 turbines between the three phases.
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Each turbine consists of a tubular steel tower and three giant turbine blades attached to a rotor. A nacelle atop the tower houses a generator, gearbox and braking mechanisms. Each turbine is self-starting and begins generating electricity when wind speed reaches eight miles per hour. Generation increases as the wind speed increases, with full power achieved at about 35 miles per hour.
The turbine rotors turn at a constant speed adjusting for changing wind speeds by automatically adjusting the pitch or angle of the turbine blades. If sustained winds exceed 55 miles per hour, the blades automatically pitch against the wind to shut down the turbine to avoid damage.
The 63 turbines are placed in four rows along the windiest ridges of the site. The project land lease area covers 5,120 acres, yet only 75 are actually taken up by turbines, access roads and maintenance buildings. The lease guarantees the landowners an annual income for the life of the project.
Energy Northwest financed the construction of Phase I of the project with a $70 million tax-exempt bond issue completed in November 2001. Construction of Phase I was completed on time and within budget, with commercial operations starting on Sept. 25, 2002.
The Phase II expansion, financed through a $21.7 million bond sale, added 12 turbines and 15.6 megawatts of capacity to the project. Construction began in May 2003 with all 12 of the new turbines in commercial operation by the end of the year. Power output from Phase II was secured through power purchase contracts with five of the eight participants in Phase I.
The third phase expansion began in September 2007. Completed in the summer of 2008, Phase III added 14 turbines for a total of 63 turbines on the site, with a combined maximum output of 95.9 megawatts of electricity.
Benton County PUD built an electrical substation at the site, along with the transmission lines that tie the project into the existing Bonneville Power Administration transmission system.