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Bozeman company proposes solution to wind’s variability February 8, 2010

Carl Borgquist’s vision started with a whiteboard and a marker in his hands.

Five years later, the president of the Bozeman-based Grasslands Renewable Energy still flourishes a marker and sketches on the whiteboard to illustrate his plan for wind power in the Northern Plains.

Borgquist doesn’t build wind farms, rather he’s got a plan for collecting and transmitting wind power. Ultimately, he hopes to gather enough wind-generated electricity to equal the output of Hoover Dam, or two coal-fired power plants at Colstrip.

Borgquist refers to Grassland’s Wind Spirit Project as part of the theorized “smart grid.” What makes it “smart” is that it could solve the inherent problem of wind’s variability.

Should Borgquist’s vision come to fruition, he and his team at Grasslands are looking to build a system that will gather renewable energy from Montana, North Dakota and Canada and export a dependable 1,000 megawatts to markets in the Southwest and Northwest.

Grasslands has set a target date of 2017 for full build-out.

The project would involve roughly 1,300 miles of collector transmission lines, mostly in Montana, and a novel energy storage system. The two components together could cost $4 billion.

Add on the related wind farms and trunk transmission, which are not part of Grasslands’ project, and the entire package is likely to run in the $12 billion to $15 billion range.

“We have to do this big,” he said. “There’s no mileage in doing this small.”

Yet, Borgquist’s venture started small, literally “on a whiteboard.”

A tax attorney by training, with stints as a district attorney and U.S. Naval Judge Advocate in California, he was lured into the world of transmission while working with a client interested in developing a wind farm.

Borgquist knew that lack of transmission was the bottleneck that prevented the state from developing its plentiful wind resource. He saw the deficiency as a problem that needed fixing.

“Putting the wires in is not the sexy part of this,” he said. “But the way we move power is key. We need to get that figured out.”

Wind power, however, poses another drawback. Even if transmission were available, the erratic nature of wind threatens its economic feasibility.

Wind farm network

Even before Grasslands Renewable came into existence, Borgquist and founding group Absaroka Energy LLC were testing ideas. (Absaroka Energy later partnered with the Calgary-based Rocky Mountain Power to form Grasslands.)

By tracking wind at a variety of locations, they discovered that they could tap different wind sources to modify the peaks and valleys associated with individual wind farms. When wind was dead in Dickenson, N.D., for example, a gale could be blowing in Cut Bank, he said.

They postulated that, by packaging wind from several wind farms, the reliability of the resource would be enhanced.

Though the model proved promising, the data still failed to achieve the team’s desired result: to make wind power as reliable as a coal-fired power plant.

To approach their goal, they added a virtual 600-megawatt pump storage facility to the model.

The proposed closed-loop pump storage facility, which is planned for a site in central Montana, would consist of two large reservoirs of water, one of them 1,000 vertical feet higher than the other.

When wind blows in excess, the extra energy is used to pump water from the lower to the upper reservoir. When the wind dies down, water is released from the upper reservoir, creating hydropower for the grid.

“It’s like a big battery,” Borgquist said. “It’s clean and it’s environmentally friendly.”

The size of the reservoirs determines the hours of reliability, he said, and the vertical distance between the reservoirs determines the amount of energy that can be stored.

Though the concept is not uncommon in Europe, he said, the United States has only one utility-scale pump storage facility, built several decades ago in Virginia.

Lacing up the grids

As Grasslands refined its concept, the company drew the attention of Elecnor, a Spanish company that specializes in energy projects around the globe.

Founded in 1958, Elecnor employs nearly 5,000 people and saw $2.69 billion in sales in 2008.

“Elecnor found us, tracked us down,” Borgquist said, noting that the two companies are working on a deal that gives Elecnor the option to buy half of Grasslands.

Over the past few years, Borgquist and his expanding team have directed their efforts to all aspects of the project, from generation to delivery. He firmly believes the success of the Wind Spirit Project depends on coordinating all of the pieces together in one package.

As proposed, Grasslands’ large collection system would serve the eastern half of Montana and north-central Montana, with spurs branching out into Canada, North Dakota and possibly Wyoming.

The North Dakota line, a high-voltage 500 kilowatt direct current line, would cross from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council grid to the Midwest Reliability Organization grid, thus opening a new market for Montana wind and bringing additional reliability to the entire system, he said.

Once “lassoed” together, the power from many wind farms would be shipped to hubs planned for Toston and Harlowton. From there, trunk transmission lines such as the Mountain States Transmission Tie and TransCanada’s Chinook project, now in different stages of development, would move the electricity to population centers along the West Coast and in the desert Southwest.

“There’s no load to service in Montana,” Borgquist said, explaining why the power would go out of state.

“Montana will grow, but it won’t grow consistently with the amount of resource we have to develop,” he said.

Ready for FERC

With its feasibility study complete, its preliminary permit filed for the pump storage facility and its application set to go out to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next week or so, Grasslands is ready to introduce the project to a broader audience.

So far, Borgquist said, Grasslands has talked to 60 renewable energy developers, most working on wind projects. Already, they’ve completed initial agreements with seven of them and look forward to working with others.

Simultaneously, they’re poised to begin talks with landowners regarding right-of-way for the proposed collector line. Environmental analysis of transmission siting is also on the to-do list.

“We haven’t crystallized the map,” Borgquist said. “We’re still looking for resources to connect and ways to connect into the grid.”

Linda Halstead-Acharya, Billings Gazzette – http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_056320b6-1462-11df-a965-001cc4c002e0.html

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Oregon’s Steens Mountain could soon have wind farms February 7, 2010

Ruggedly beautiful Steens Mountain stands in an area of southeast Oregon so isolated that it’s barely changed since cattle king Pete French arrived in the late 1800s.

Coyotes yelp at sundown. Drivers are so few that they wave to each other as they pass. Campers, hunters and bird-watchers trek from across the state to breathe in the majestic emptiness and to gaze from the Steens summit across a seemingly endless tapestry of high desert and open range.

But soon, the scenery will change.

Harney County has cleared Columbia Energy Partners of Vancouver to build a wind farm on the mountain’s north slope. By year’s end, 415-foot turbines could start rising from the juniper and sagebrush, among thousands of towers that developers are stampeding to build across eastern Oregon.

In addition, Columbia Energy has two more wind projects in the works for the Steens slope, plus another for Riddle Mountain to the northeast. A Houston company is scouting 18,000 acres to the south for a wind farm in the Pueblo Mountains, and more could follow.

“There are a number of sites being prospected by developers,” said John Audley of Portland’s Renewable Northwest Project, a coalition of companies and groups that promotes renewable-energy projects. “These prospectors are like old gold miners.”

Aside from wind farms, thousands of acres on Steens Mountain are open to homebuilding.

“We counted over 90 sites that you could come in tomorrow and make application to put homes on,” said Steve Grasty, chairman of the Harney County commissioners. One landowner won clearance to build hundreds of homes near the Steens’ Fish Lake.

But while some environmentalists are dismayed by the prospect of development on Steens Mountain — even if it’s green-friendly wind turbines — county officials are thrilled.

“We have an opportunity to put a $1.25 billion investment into this community,” said Grasty, referring to the value of Columbia Energy’s four wind projects and an accompanying transmission line.

“Holy mackerel, and it is an environmentally sensitive way to do it.”

To outsiders, it may seem unthinkable to build on the flank of an Oregon treasure. But to Harney County, it’s simple math.

A century after the close of the Western frontier, the county retains its gun-rack rawness. Residents are self-reliant, a necessity in a county bigger than nine states but with just 7,700 residents.

But the economy, long struggling, has been trampled in the recent recession. December’s jobless rate nudged 18 percent (compared with 11 percent statewide), not far from 1980’s record 21.8 percent, said Jason Yohannan, a state labor economist in La Grande.

The demise of RV-maker Monaco Coach in 2008-09 left Harney County with no manufacturing, Yohannan said, a change from the late 1970s when more than 1,000 residents worked as loggers or in the old Edward Hines Lumber Co. sawmill.

Columbia Energy unfurls the promise of a new industry — and jobs: 150 during an estimated four years of construction, plus 50 to 75 for maintenance after that, said Chris Crowley, Columbia Energy’s president.

Audley said that’s hard to pass up. “There hasn’t been a significant economic investment in Harney County in a long time,” he said. “For better or worse, this is the only industry I know of that’s investing (an average of) $700 million (per wind project) in rural Oregon.”

Grasty said he’s not worried about losing tourism because of the wind turbines. County tourism has grown only 5 percent in 20 years, he said, and the wind farms will be contained.

“They are islands of private property in a sea of public land,” he said.

So far, only Columbia Energy’s first wind farm has been approved: the $300 million Echanis Wind Project, with 40 to 60 wind turbines across 10,000 acres. It’s expected to produce 104 megawatts, enough to power some 30,000 homes.
The project hinges on U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval of the transmission line, which has two possible configurations: a 29-mile line possibly paralleling an existing line that crosses the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge just northwest of Steens Mountain, and a 46-mile line across mostly private land. Crowley expects to gain approval in the fall and launch construction on Echanis soon after.

Columbia Energy recently shelved its West Ridge and East Ridge wind projects headed for the Steens’ north flank, in the face of opposition from the Audubon Society of Portland and the Oregon Natural Desert Association in Bend.

Liz Nysson, spokeswoman for the desert association, said visitors will be appalled to find “industrial-scale wind development” on the slopes of Steens Mountain. The Echanis project, she said, also will be built on habitat for falcons, golden eagles and sage grouse, which is being considered for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Bob Sallinger, the Portland Audubon Society’s conservation director, called the area “an incredibly valuable landscape from a wildlife standpoint.”

“We have a gold-rush mentality in this state about wind,” he said. “We could look back in 10 or 15 years and wish we had done it differently and more thoughtfully.”

Both groups also accuse Columbia Energy of dividing the Steens projects into three pieces of about 104 megawatts each to skirt the state scrutiny that kicks in for projects of 105 megawatts or more.

But Crowley insisted the projects are legitimately separate: “They are on separate pieces of property. They will have separate substations. They will have separate financing.”

He also said Columbia Energy won’t sit on the West and East Ridge projects for long. The company expects to begin construction on one in 2012 and the other in 2013, when it also plans to launch construction on the Riddle Mountain project. All three will be about the same size as Echanis.

Crowley marveled at the area’s wind power. During a 24-hour test Jan. 10, the company clocked an average wind speed on the Steens’ north side of 41 mph.

“There is nowhere else with a resource like this in Oregon,” he said.

Cattle rancher Hoyt Wilson, meanwhile, has mixed feelings about his decision to lease land to Columbia Energy for the Echanis project.

“It’s not something I’m looking forward to,” said Wilson, 67, as he stood in a chilly breeze last week outside the shop and office for his 28,000-acre Mann Lake Ranch.

He remembers when cattle ranching was lucrative. “It used to be a lot of fun to ranch,” he said. “All you had to worry about was Mother Nature.”

But environmental lawsuits have forced the BLM to cut back on the number of cattle and amount of time they can graze on federal lands, pinching him and other ranchers, he said.

“It does you no good if you can run 1,000 cows on your own land for nine months, but you can only run 500 on BLM land for three months,” Wilson said. In other words, what happens to the other 500 cattle? Cows need so much room to graze, that even ranchers with significant land holdings rely on leasing federal lands for part of the year.

Wilson also worried that, after he and his wife die, his son and two daughters wouldn’t be able to afford the taxes on a property worth $4 million but generating no more than $60,000 a year in revenue.

The Columbia Energy deal will enable the family to keep the ranch intact and in the family. In exchange for a 20-year lease, he’ll receive a percentage of the gross sales from the wind farm’s output — about $5,000 to $7,000 a year per turbine.

“Windmills came along,” he said, “and, yeah, that is the way to make a buck.”

The economy comes into play for housing development as well. Under Measure 37, passed by voters in 2004 (and later scaled back by Measure 49), landowners could seek to develop their land under the rules in place at the time of purchase, or be compensated by county government for their economic loss.

But in Harney County, compensation is all but out of the question.

In 2007, for example, landowner Dan Jordan of Burns won the right under Measure 37 to build 640 homes below Fish Lake, a popular recreation site on Steens Mountain’s west side, after the county concluded it could hardly afford to pay him $6.4 million. Grasty said those plans were later scaled way back, and so far, Jordan hasn’t built anything.

Still, those who love the Steens’ open vistas and assume that the mountain is protected as wilderness might be surprised to learn how much of it rests in private hands.

The BLM manages 428,000 acres, including the 170,000-acre Steens Mountain Wilderness Area, and the state administers 1,000 acres. But an additional 67,000 acres on and around the mountain are privately owned, and most of that is at low elevation suitable for homes.

The county’s land-use plan allows ranch or farm dwellings on tracts of at least 160 acres, said Grasty, the county chairman. Owners are expected to maintain some farming or ranching operations, but a local real estate broker, Randy Wilson, said keeping horses or a cow or two is enough.

Wilson, a broker with United Country-Clemens Real Estate in Hines and no relation to Hoyt Wilson, said he’s seeing interest among urbanites eager to escape to Harney County.

“Every week, I get people looking for property,” he said. “A lot of hunters, a lot of people looking to retire.” If they can get access to electricity and county approval to build on or near the mountain, he said, “people are going to jump all over it.”

John Witzel, an outfitter and former rancher who lives in Frenchglen just west of Steens Mountain, said he’s seen a marked shift in attitudes toward development.

Witzel, 51, and his wife, Cindy, were denied permission in 1997 to build 15 guest cabins and a 25-room lodge on the mountain’s west side. After they won Harney County approval to build a “career school” instead, the state Land Use Board of Appeals in 2001 overturned the decision.

“We couldn’t do that because of the viewshed,” Witzel said. “Things have changed, obviously.”

For hard-pressed ranchers, wind turbines are “a way to carry on and keep going,” he said. “I don’t think any of them want to look at windmills, but that’s the way it is.”

Richard Cockle – The Oregonianhttp://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/oregons_steens_mountain_could.html

 

Gregoire approves Kittitas Co. wind project February 4, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:30 pm
Tags: ,

Gov. Chris Gregoire has approved the Desert Claim wind project in Kittitas County, eight miles north of Ellensburg.

Gregoire acted on a recommendation from a state energy facility siting council.

Desert Claim, which becomes the fourth wind farm approved in Kittitas County, will have a capacity of 95 turbines across 5,200 acres. The wind farm will have a capacity of 190 megawatts, enough power for 57,000 homes.

Officials of EnXco, a French firm that is developing the project, said construction will start this summer.

The firm anticipates the project will create 282 jobs and $33 million in total economic activity during construction.

Once in operation, the wind farm will have 36 jobs.

The siting agency, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, made its recommendation to Gregoire in November.

The agency, created to provide one-stop licensing for major energy projects, assumed jurisdiction over the project after Kittitas County rejected the application.

The county ultimately withdrew its objections to the project.

EnXco modified the project to reduce the number of turbines and the impacts on nearby landowners.

Other approved wind farms in the county include Wild Horse and the Vantage wind farm, both along Interstate 90, east of Ellensburg.

The third previously approved wind farm is the Kittitas Valley wind farm.

Yakima Herald Republic – http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2010/02/03/gregoire-approves-kittitas-co-wind-project

 

More on community-Owned wind farm being developed in Mont. January 30, 2010

Filed under: Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 6:57 pm
Tags: ,

Montana is experiencing a very important development in the renewable energy field, according to Erin Edholm, director of communication for National Wind, LLC, as the first utility-scale, community-owned wind development project is under way.

The Judith Highlands Energy project has the potential to be the largest development of its kind in the state and is expected to produce up to 500 megawatts in Fergus, Wheatland, Judith Basin, and Golden Valley counties. Edholm said the project incorporates over 50,000 acres of land through the support of nearly 30 local landowners.

The Judith Highlands Energy project will include anywhere from 250 to over 300 turbines when complete, depending on the turbine model used.

National Wind only sets up community-owned projects, according to Edholm, adding that the industry standard is to provide landowners an annual turbine lease payment, but National Wind’s development model offers landowners more than this.
The company makes those lease payments but they also allow the local members to share in the project’s revenues once the wind energy is converted to power. In addition, the state tax revenue generated by the local wind farm can be used to build local infrastructure and develop the local economy, she said.

“Our National Wind model seeks to allow local community participation, which provides potential for sharing in both turbine leases and revenues from a successful project,” said Patrick Pelstring, co-chair of National Wind, LLC.

Montana Wind Re-sources of Billings will jointly manage the wind farm with National Wind. Rhyno Stinchfield, Mon-tana Wind Resources chief executive officer, has 30 years of experience in the renewable resources field. Steve Tyrell, chief operating officer with Montana Wind Resources, has 12 years of experience in range management services throughout the Northern Rockies.

“Not only will this project help Western States reach their Renewable Portfolio Stan-dards, it also has the likelihood of providing substantial economic benefits to Montana,” says Stinchfield. “Steve and I have enjoyed working with Mon-tana ranchers and landowners over the past several years. However, nothing we’ve seen yet has possessed the economic potential of Judith Highlands. We need more developments like this across the state because community-owned wind projects can add significantly to the local economy.”

Other than access to the land to house the wind turbine, there is no financial investment necessary for the landowners, according to Edholdm.

She said the cost of construction, staffing and maintenance is paid for through financing, and the wind farm’s production taxes are paid for by the project company, Judith Highlands Energy, LLC.

The only outlay to the local landowners is land access. By allowing the company access to their land, landowners become part of the project and the profits.

Edholm said all landowners who have turbines are fairly compensated for crop loss in addition to the standard annual turbine lease payment. Any access roads that are developed on the land are also justly compensated.

“But many landowners also find out the roads are a benefit to them as well,” she explained.

Once the turbines are in place, landowners may grow crops or graze livestock right up to the base of the turbines just as before.

“We don’t want to disrupt their normal operations,” she said.

A typical turbine in this project will stand 400 feet tall and take up about half an acre of space. The project is expected to take five to eight years to complete.

Judith Highlands Energy’s development team has executed two leases for on-site meteorological equipment (met tower) installation that were installed in December. One year of on-site wind analysis is needed to effectively determine the best spots for wind turbine placement.

The company is also negotiating with transmission developers to carry the electricity to markets in the West. Edholm said that Montana has a very high ability to produce more energy than it needs. Therefore most of the power generated by the project will sent out of state.

“Montana’s current climate for transmission interconnection is challenging. However, we are working to make sure we have a feasible transmission strategy in place,” Edholm said. “Many active private transmission line building initiatives are in the works across the state that could serve the Judith Highlands project. Transmis-sion lines need to be installed before we start erecting the turbines.”

Once the turbines are up the company will maintain a crew in the area to service and maintain those turbines. Depending upon which model is chosen each General Electric turbine is capable of generating either 1.5 or 2.5 megawatts of power. When complete, this project will generate 500 megawatts.

The Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Program has reported that 1,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity in Montana could add $1.2 billion in cumulative economic benefits, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.9 million tons, and save over 1,200 million gallons of water annually.

Montana is listed as one of the top five states with the country’s greatest wind potential according to the American Wind Energy Association.

National Wind is the nation’s largest developors of utility-scale, community-owned wind projects. They have been working with communities since 2003 and currently have 13 wind energy projects located across the U.S.

“We have a pipeline of over 4,000 megawatts of projects,” said Edholm, adding they are excited to see Montanans grow their ability to produce, sell and profit from wind energy.

To learn more about Montana’s first wind farm visit http://www.judithhighlandsenergy.com, http://www.nationalwind.com, or http://www.montanawindresources.com.

Landowners interested in participation opportunities can contact Stinchfield, 406-651-8898; or Tyrrel, 406-855-7600, of Montana Wind Resources.

TERRI ADAMS, The Prairie Star http://www.theprairiestar.com/articles/2010/01/29/ag_news/local_and_regional_news/local3.txt

 

Wind Farm to fund community action org in Wash.

The Coastal Community Action Program has announced that it has received financing for the construction of four 1.5-megawatt wind turbines on 29 privately owned acres in the hills off County Line Road in Grayland.

Known as the Wind Energy Project, the energy produced by the turbines will be sold to the Grays Harbor PUD and the profits used to fund CCAP’s many social service programs, including Meals-On-Wheels and in-home care assistance for seniors, transportation services for the disabled and HIV/AIDS medical management.

It is believed to be the first wind project developed to fund a community action organization.

“We’re excited,” Craig Dublanko, the chief financial officer for CCAP and the project’s manager, told The Daily World. “For the community, it’s a renewable energy project. For us, it’s a social service project using renewable energy.”

According to Dublanko, the non-profit social services group will receive $3 million in New Market Tax Credit financing from Shore Bank Enterprise Pacific Coast V, a partnership between Shore Bank Enterprise Cascadia in Ilwaco and Wells Fargo Community Development Corporation.

In addition, the National Community Fund I, an affiliate of United Fund Advisors in Portland, Ore., and a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis, Minn., monetized $7 million of New Markets Tax Credit, as well as renewable energy Investment Tax Credits.

“At UFA, we ensure that each of our investments has a meaningful social or environmental impact,” said Chris Hasle, a principal at United Fund Advisors, in a press release. “The CCAP project is a home run for everyone because it has tremendous returns for both the second and third bottom lines.”

The financing will supplement a $5 million state grant secured by state Sen. Jim Hargrove in 2007.

CCAP estimates the wind project will produce 13.5 million killowatt hours of clean energy annually, as well as net revenues of $500,000 per year. The lifespan of the turbines is expected to be 25 years.

“It has been a long road to reach this point,” said Troy Colley, the executive director of CCAP, in a statement, “but we see a bright future ahead with clean renewable energy not only lighting up homes, but making a difference every day in our community by supporting CCAP.”

According to Dublanko, preparation for construction of the wind turbines is under way at the site.

“We’re making sure all the pieces are in place before the delivery of the turbines happens,” he said, adding that General Electric could deliver the turbines as early as the first or second week of March, with the turbines expected to be up and running by June.

Mike Marsh, Daily World – http://www.thedailyworld.com/articles/2010/01/29/local_news/doc4b632f1a00330147458480.txt

 

Regional Wind energy topic of presentation in Yakima

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:38 pm
Tags: ,

Wind energy will be the topic of discussion at Yakima Valley Community College on Monday.

The talk is titled, “Wind Energy and Central Washington’s Shrub-steppe: How do we achieve the state’s green energy goals while protecting our natural heritage for future generations?” The free presentation will be given by Julie Conley at 7 p.m. in Room 119 of Glenn Anthon Hall.

Conley, who has worked for conservation districts in Eastern Oregon and locally for The Nature Conservatory, will discuss ongoing efforts to guide future wind power development to areas posing the least risk to biodiversity.

Washington is now ranked fifth in the nation for installed capacity of wind power, which is key to Washington’s renewable energy portfolio and infusing rural economies with income and jobs.

The event is being offered by the YVCC Biology Department, in collaboration with the Washington Native Plant Society.

Yakima Herald-Republichttp://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2010/01/29/01-30-10-wind-talk

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Proposed wind farm encounters resistance from City of Union January 27, 2010

Horizon Wind Energy has a long way to go to convince the City of Union that the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm is a good thing.

A city-appointed committee recently completed a 10-page study of impacts the proposed 300-megawatt facility might have on the community.

The bottom line? Union recognizes the importance of renewable energy, but fears negative effects on scenic and aesthetic values, property values, tourism and economic health, and more.

“We’re opposed if it hurts Union or Union residents in any way,” said City Administrator Sandra Patterson, who also served on the committee.

The committee recently submitted a report to the Oregon Department of Energy, whose Energy Facility Siting Council has say-so on the site certificate application.

In a cover letter to Energy Facility Siting Officer Susan Oliver, the city said it believes the wind farm would have overall negative impact, while providing minimal economic benefit.

Valerie Franklin, Horizon’s Antelope Ridge project development manager, said this week her company hopes the differences can be worked out.

“We believe there is room to work together with the City of Union to minimize impact while ensuring jobs, economic investment and energy independence for Union County,” she said.

She also said the project will yield positive economic impacts for the county as a whole.

“We are proud to call Union County home and believe that the majority of Union County citizens welcome the jobs and economic development this $600 million investment will bring,” Franklin said.

Horizon, the owner of the Elkhorn Valley Wind Farm at Telocaset, off Highway 237 between Union and North Powder, wants to build a second facility near the Union city limits.

The proposed project area stretches southeast, south and west of the city. The 300-megawatt Antelope Ridge wind farm would feature “up to” 182 tall turbines.

The committee’s report painted a scenario in which turbines surround the city 200 degrees and rise above rooftops.

The closest turbine, according to the committee, might be 1.2 miles away, and the farthest 2.4 miles. That would not be acceptable, the report said.

“People move to Union for the remarkable backdrop and the peaceful and beautiful surroundings,” the committee report said. “We do not have manufacturing or big business, what we do have is community character.”

Franklin said that Horizon’s project area map shows “study corridors” but does not show locations of turbines. She said that no decision has been made on turbine siting yet.

“We do not know at this time where turbines will go in the study corridors. However, not all study corridors are intended for turbines,” she said.

Patterson acknowledged that the project map does not show the location of turbines. However, she said the scenario in the report is a valid one.

“The map shows the location of generators, and those are what operates the turbines,” she said.

Franklin said the study corridor closest to the city, Ramo Flat Road, is actually a road improvement, and that another corridor running northwest of the city is earmarked for a transmission feeder line.

Regarding real estate values, the Union committee acknowledged there are conflicting opinions on whether values go down in areas near wind farms. The group believes the threat is there, while Horizon disagrees.

A government-funded study often cited by Horizon looks at sales of 7,500 homes in nine states and concludes there is no evidence of impacts to property values.

“We believe the concern about wind energy and property values is a solved question,” Franklin said.

But studies cited in the city’s report indicate that values can be affected. The city thinks the question needs to be looked at closely.

“We assert that sufficient conditions exist to recommend that prudent action by the siting council is appropriate,” the report said.

Union is asking that Horizon pay for a 3- to 5-year study on the local property value issue before the project proceeds.

If the study indicates property value loss, the committee says Horizon should have to compensate property owners, and compensate the city for lost tax revenues if the project is built.

As with the real estate question, the city’s committee could not produce conclusive evidence that the wind farm will hurt local tourism and economic development.

On the other hand, it said there is reason enough to believe that it will.

The committee cited a report from Scotland that says wind farms there have a negative effect on tourism.

More than half of the people interviewed in the Scottish study said they thought wind power spoils the look of a countryside, and one-quarter said they would avoid parts of the country with wind developments.

Horizon Wind Energy, the owner of this wind farm at Telocaset, wants to build a second facility near Union.

But Franklin presents an opposite view, saying some wind farms have turned out to be tourist attractions.

As an example, she said the Wild Horse Wind Farm in Kittitas County, Wash., experienced more than 18,000 national and international visitors in 2008.

Union’s committee said the city has worked hard to bring in tourists and provide amenities, and that wind power threatens the community’s attractiveness.

Some 44 of Union’s buildings are on the historic register, grant money has been received for street maintenance, Buffalo Peak golf course is gaining as an attraction and land around the golf course is being rezoned for higher-end development, the Union report noted.

“We do all this in an ongoing effort to become increasingly attractive to tourists and future property owners,” said the committee report. “Set and setting are a significant part of our efforts.”

The committee’s report asks that the project either be completely suspended or that Horizon be required to pay compensation to offset negative effects on tourism.

In order to build the project, Horizon must meet standards set by the Energy Facility Siting Council. The standards are designed to protect natural resources, ensure public health and safety and protect against adverse environmental impacts.

According to EFSC’s website, the standards ask three fundamental questions:

• Does the applicant have the appropriate abilities to build this energy facility?

• Is the site suitable?

• Would the facility have adverse impacts on the environment and the community?

Horizon filed its preliminary application for a site certificate back in October. On Dec. 30, the Oregon Dept. of Energy notified the company the application is incomplete.

The ODE’s 28-page Request for Additional Information asks clarification on the number and the height of towers, impacts on fish and wildlife, effects on scenery, noise levels and a host of other issues.

The request notes that the City of Union and numerous other Grande Ronde Valley residents have expressed concerns about visual impacts.

The energy department said it is required to make sure Horizon takes “practicable measures” to reduce environmental and scenic impact.

Those measures could include using underground transmission lines and designing the facility to minimize visual impacts. The department asked Horizon for more information on the visibility of the project, preferably in the form of a 3D simulation.

Franklin said the state response is a “normal and routine part” of the siting process. She said Horizon will be working hard to resolve all unanswered questions and concerns.

“We expect it be an iterative process over the next few months while we pull together the information EFSC needs, employing the expertise within our company and quality consultants,” she said.

Union, meanwhile, is planning town hall meetings. Patterson said the city hasn’t surveyed residents on the proposed project, but believes people will oppose it once they learn more details.

“We’ve talked to a few, and we’ve found that most of them don’t understand the size of the project. When we tell them, they say, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ and they don’t want it,” she said.

Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer – http://www.lagrandeobserver.com/News/Local-News/Proposed-wind-farm-encounters-resistance-from-City-of-Union