GE Building Largest Wind Farm In U.S.

There’s small wind — backyard-style DIY wind projects like this report detailed this week — and there’s big wind, the multi-megawatt utility-scale kind. And then there’s very big wind. On Thursday morning GE (s GE) said it has signed a $1.4 billion deal to deliver more than 300 wind turbines for a 845 MW wind farm that will be built across 30 square miles in north-central Oregon, creating what it says will be the largest wind farm in the U.S. when built.

Independent power producer Caithness Energy will develop the wind farm, called Shepherds Flat, and under three power purchase agreements will provide clean power for utility Southern California Edison (meeting one-tenth of SCE’s state renewable portfolio standard). Caithness Energy says the entire project will cost $2 billion, will create 435 local jobs and is ready to be built now.

The wind industry is pretty much the most mature clean power sector in the U.S. and is being driven in California partly by the state renewable portfolio standard, which says utilities must have 20 percent of their electricity come from clean power by 2010. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said that in the third quarter the U.S. wind energy industry installed 1.6 GW of new power generating capacity, bringing the year-to-date total by the end of the third quarter to 5.8 GW.

But the economy of the past year and half has also caused some wind power projects to stall, and the AWEA says wind turbine manufacturing is still below the levels of 2008. The highest profile wind farm to face the credit crunch toward the end of 2008 was a T. Boone Pickens project in Texas. It was supposed to be the world’s largest wind farm, but now it has been put on hold and will likely be scaled back.

Image courtesy of GE.