The city of Portland is launching a power project more low-profile than a proposed purchase of Portland General Electric, but just as bold in its own way.

Portland wants to become the first major city in the world to cover all its governmental electricity needs with wind power. It's soliciting bids from companies interested in building and running a vast wind farm big enough to power the thousands of computers and light bulbs in city offices.

Those windmills wouldn't literally pump power straight into city offices, says Jeff Cogen, chief of staff for City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Instead, the city would cut a deal with the winning

bidder to add enough new wind power to the electric grid to offset its own use.

While the project doesn't yet have a price tag, city bid rules require that it cost no more in its first year than rates PGE would charge. By making a 15- to 20-year deal, Cogen says, the city could insulate itself against future energy-price hikes.

The most likely location for a city wind farm: rural Oregon, where the wind blows, the electrical infrastructure of the Columbia dams is near at hand, and strapped economies are in desperate need of stimulus.

"In Sherman County, which is one of the counties where this might be located, one wind farm makes up 10 percent of the property-tax base," Cogen says. "Our facility would be three times bigger."

An earlier request for preliminary information from potential builders drew responses from eight companies, including PGE and Pacific Power. A committee will evaluate formal bids for the project by June 23, with a City Council vote possible by the end of summer.