Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Long and Windy Road: A Visit to the Wild Horse Wind Farm

They’re huge! That’s the first thing you notice as you drive up to the Wild Horse Wind Farm visitor center. In the photo below, the pickup truck is dwarfed by a forest of 221-foot tall wind turbine towers.

Wild Horse Wind Farm: wind turbines (click for larger image) 
The Wild Horse Wind Farm is a 273-megawatt wind farm built by Puget Sound Energy that consists of 149 turbines on a 8,600-acre site 15 miles east of Ellensburg, Washington. Click here for directions.

Wild Horse Wind Farm: total rotor diameter The turbines are placed on the high open ridge tops of Whiskey Dick Mountain, which was chosen for its reliable wind conditions, remote location, and access to nearby power transmission lines. The towers are 221 feet tall. Each rotor blade is 129 feet long, with a total rotor diameter of 264 feet — larger than the wingspan of a Boeing 747.

The turbines can produce electricity with wind speeds as low as 9 mph and reach full production at 31 mph. They shut down at sustained wind speeds of 56 mph.

Wild Horse Wind Farm: turbine blade (129 feet long)

During my visit, the rotor blades took five seconds to complete a full rotation. There was a dramatic swooshing sound as the blades carved through the air.

Visitor Center
The visitor center, called the Renewable Energy Center, sits on a ridge above the Kittitas Valley. From this 3,500 foot elevation you can see the entire Wild Horse Wind Farm, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and the Columbia River Basin looking toward Moses Lake.

Wild Horse Wind Farm: visitor center (click for larger image)

Weather permitting, the visitor center is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week from April through November. For more info on visiting the Wild Horse Wind Farm, see Renewable Energy Center.
Inside a Wind Turbine
Ever wondered what it's like inside a wind turbine? Join PSE's maintenance team for a climb 200' up a wind turbine.

The wind turbines at Wild Horse Wind Farm are Vestas V80 models. A high-voltage transformer is built directly into the turbine housing assembly pictured below.

Vestas V80 wind turbine (click for fact sheet)

Wild Horse Wind Farm Expansion
Wind power has proven to be a cost-effective and reliable power source. Dozens more wind turbines are under construction at the southern end of the wind farm, near I-90.

Wild Horse Wind Farm: wind turbine construction (click for larger image)

The next time you're driving on I-90 near Ellensburg, consider the long and windy road.

Redmond Library Board


Bob Yoder said...

Really good article and graphics! Wow.

Jactive said...

Thanks for this excellent and interesting post, Lorin. I found out about it via Bob Yoder's Redmond Blog.