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State reviews PGE plant plans

If approved, PGE could build new plant in 2014

Next month, the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) will make a preliminary decision on whether Portland General Electric can move forward on its plan to build a peaker power plant at Port Westward in Clatskanie.

If plans move through the state's process, PGE will be allowed to issue a request for proposals, eliciting bids from firms to build the facility.

The Port Westward peaker plant, part of PGE's 2009 Integrated Resource Plan, is anticipated to work in conjunction with the energy provider's wind-power sources, located on the Columbia Gorge.

Peaker plants run during times of high demand to relieve stress to the power grid.

'They don't want new wind power on the grid unless … there's an alternative source of energy that's 100 percent,' said County Commissioner Tony Hyde, who's familiar with PGE's plans.

It would represent the next phase of PGE's development at Port Westward.

At Port Westward Industrial Park, PGE has more than 800 acres of developable land. The power provider last built a $287 million, 400-megawatt gas-fired facility at Port Westward in 2007.

Because wind-powered turbines are a relatively unreliable source of power, peaker plants are necessary to offset lulls during times of high demand.

The planned facility, which could go online as early as 2014, would generate around 200 megawatts of power.

Oregon's utility commission is a regulatory body that oversees customer rates, among other services, of the state's investor-owned utility companies.

It plans to determine whether there's enough infrastructure at Port Westward to support the plant, said PUC spokesman Bob Valdez. The commission will also look at the plant's overall viability.

Steve Corson, a spokesman for PGE, said keeping consumer costs low will remain a priority.

'We operate all of the facilities under economic dispatch, meaning if we can get energy cheaper then we will,' Corson said.