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Wind farm complex in works 10 miles outside Othello, Wash. February 10, 2010

Adams County’s first wind farm could give Othello a job boost.

Portland-based Horizon Wind Energy is working to build a $120 million wind complex about 10 miles southwest of Othello.

The Saddle Mountain Wind Farm’s 32 turbines would produce about 57 megawatts — enough to power about 17,100 homes annually, said Elon Hasson, project manager for Horizon Wind Energy.

The company recently received a conditional use permit from Adams County to build the project, but construction won’t start until it firms up a buyer for the power.

Loren Wiltse, Adams County building and planning director, said the project still needs to get building and construction permits, but the overall project has been approved.

The start of construction is at least a year out, Hasson said, but once its starts the work will take six to eight months and involve about 120 employees.

Othello City Administrator Ehman Sheldon said the construction will bring workers to Othello’s restaurants, gas stations and motels. “It will be a big boon to our economy here,” he said.

Once the wind farm is done, Horizon will need six to eight full-time employees to operate it, Hasson said.

State regional labor economist T. Baba Moussa said he doesn’t expect those jobs to have a large impact on the county as a whole. Adams County has about 5,380 non-farm jobs.

But Mike Bailey, Othello’s finance officer, said, “For us, everything helps.”

Bailey said Horizon Wind Energy’s presentation this week to the Othello City Council made him comfortable with the project.

He said it seems well engineered and the company appears to be doing what it can to minimize environmental impacts.

Horizon Wind Energy also built the Wild Horse Wind Farm in Ellensburg, which is now owned by Puget Sound Energy. And the company is working on a wind farm in Kittitas County and has three in Oregon.

Hasson said the Othello wind farm site, which is smaller than its other projects, was chosen to minimize harm to wildlife and the community.

The company worked with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife on a conservation plan for the sandhill cranes, he said.

Thousands of the birds use the area around Othello as a stopover while migrating from California to Alaska. The farm fields are rich in nutrients and attract the cranes, which hang around for a month or more.

The wind farm plan includes teaching people about wind turbines, siting the farm where it will least affect the cranes and collecting data on the birds during and after construction.

Sheldon said city officials have been told the wind farm will be visible from the city on a clear day.

Kristi Pihl, TriCity Herald –


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