PGE’s new windfarm: union-built

At the Wheatridge facility south of Boardman, a crane operated by a member of IUOE Local 701 lifts a rotor to be attached by members of Iron Workers and Laborers atop a 290-foot tower. At right in the distance is PGE’s Boardman Coal Plant, which closed permanently in October. (Photos courtesy PGE)

By Don McIntosh

Unlike other recent Northeast Oregon renewable energy projects, which relied on nonunion out-of-state workers, the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility about 15 miles south of Boardman employed members of Iron Workers Local 29, Laborers Local 737 and Operating Engineers Local 701. Oregon State Building Trades Executive Secretary Robert Camarillo says contractor Blattner Energy signed agreements with those unions after labor leaders met with PGE. PGE is part owner of the project, along with Next Era Energy Resources.

The Wheatridge facility is one of the first large-scale energy facilities in the United States to combine wind, solar, and battery storage at a single location. PGE says up to 300 workers were employed to construct the 300 megawatt wind farm portion of the project, which went online Dec. 8. It consists of 120 massive wind turbines, 295 feet from ground to hub, made by GE Renewable Energy. Eastern Oregon Iron Workers representative Mike Alldritt says the project employed a mostly local workforce.

Next, up to 175 workers will complete an adjacent 50 megawatt solar array and 30 megawatt battery storage facility by the end of 2021. A new transmission line connects Wheatridge with the Bonneville Power Administration’s regional high-voltage grid.

The project received public subsidies, including a strategic investment program tax credit from Morrow County, a federal production tax credit for the wind portion. and a federal investment tax credit for the solar portion.

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