Wind power is a critical component of our work to shift to affordable, reliable clean energy for all. Fifteen years ago, Portland General Electric became an early adopter of wind power in the Pacific Northwest when we began operations at Biglow Canyon – one of the largest projects of its kind in the Northwest at the time of construction. Since then, Biglow has proved both a reliable generator of clean power and an important testing ground for advancements in wind generation. Over its lifetime, the plant has generated more than 13 million MWh of clean electricity, or enough to power about 120,000 homes per year.
We are proud of our wind fleet and its ability to provide affordable emissions-free power, family-wage jobs in rural areas and opportunities to support local services and landowners. Our investments in Sherman County have helped build a new library, provided funding for local roads and the Renewable and Wind Turbine Technician program at Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles. At the time, large-scale wind power generation was a relatively young form of generation, and like any new technology, that means we are always learning. We have shared those learnings with others in the industry and use those learnings to apply to both current and future wind operations.
In February, an incident occurred at Biglow Canyon in which a blade separated from a wind turbine and fell to the ground. While no injuries were reported, we are taking this matter very seriously. We initiated an investigation to understand the cause of the failure. This event, and general maintenance procedures at Biglow, are the subject of an article published in The Oregonian on August 27, 2022.
We are working with the manufacturer of the turbines and our operations and maintenance contractor to understand what led to the failure and what, if any, changes are needed to have the highest standard of maintenance in place.
Portland General Electric is proud to be a leader in bringing renewable power to customers and the region.
Why is wind power important?
Wind offers unique benefits, including affordable emissions-free power, family-wage jobs in rural areas, and opportunities to support agriculture and local landowners. Our wind fleet is consistently available to deliver reliable, renewable energy to customers, with both an availability factor and forced outage rate above the industry median.
PGE was an early adopter of wind energy in our state and region. Our Biglow Canyon wind farm is a first-generation facility and was the largest project of its kind in Oregon at the time of its construction. Biglow has proved both a reliable producer of clean electricity and a testing ground for advancements in wind generation. Since coming online, Biglow has generated more than 13 million megawatt hours of clean electricity. That’s enough to power about 120,000 homes per year.
Wind power will continue to play an important role as we make progress toward our clean energy targets.
What is the status of the investigation?
Portland General Electric and Vestas have both conducted root cause analyses which suggest the connection between the turbine blade and hub was not well clamped at the time of the incident which was likely a result of bolts becoming loose and experiencing fatigue damage over time, leading to bolt failure. All turbines have been inspected and most have returned to service and we are now working with Vestas to explore what, if any, changes are needed to have the highest standard of maintenance in place. We expect the investigation and action plan to be fully complete sometime this fall.
Did PGE notify landowners and regulators about the blade incident?
Yes. Following the incident, PGE informed both regulators and the landowners at Biglow Canyon. Our relationship with these landowners is key to our success in delivering reliable, affordable and clean energy to customers. We appreciate their patience as we complete our thorough investigation and analysis.
What steps is PGE taking to ensure other turbines don’t suffer similar problems?
PGE’s maintenance contractor, Vestas, is responsible for performing routine inspections and maintenance to facilitate the safety and reliability of turbine operations. In addition to this routine maintenance, we are currently investigating the blade incident to understand if any adjustments to maintenance practices are needed.
PGE also uses remote diagnostics and predictive technologies to remotely monitor our equipment and detect anomalies or changes. These tools allow us to anticipate potential problems and prioritize maintenance tasks appropriately. For this work, PGE was awarded the Electric Power Research Institute’s Technology Transfer Award for Wind Turbine Health Monitoring Tools – a national accolade honoring innovators transforming the future of energy.
Will there be an interruption in power service due to this incident?
No. PGE has a diverse set of resources available to serve customers, even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. PGE can also access the larger electrical grid to procure power from 3rd party sources when necessary to meet customer demand.
Is PGE planning to repower the facility?
Repowering any generation facility entails replacing the current generating components with a newer design. PGE has not determined if or when a repower should occur at Biglow. Both cost and risk to customers would be the determinative factors in deciding whether or not to pursue a repower. Ultimately, if PGE were to repower, PGE is required to show the prudence of its actions within a general rate case or other cost recovery proceeding.
Does this incident point to a larger issue with the reliability of renewable generation sources?
No. Renewable energy generation is reliable and will play a growing role in meeting the needs of PGE customers. We remain committed to investing in clean energy generation. When combined with emerging energy storage technology and the growth of the “smart grid,” these three elements will enable us to provide reliable, affordable, and clean power to all customers in compliance with HB 2021.