Library from Washington
A 52-turbine wind energy project called Skookumchuck Wind Energy has been pitched for the southeast corner of Thurston County and northeast Lewis County.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area have petitioned the court to review Bonneville Power Administration’s ("BPA") June 24, 2015 Record of Decision (“ROD”) approving the interconnection of the Whistling Ridge Energy Project to BPA’s electricity transmission system, based on BPA’s analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). This detailed brief filed on behalf of the groups provides an informative description of the circumstances surrounding BPA's decision and how the petitioners argue the NEPA provisions were incorrectly applied. A portion of the brief is provided below. The full document as filed with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals can be accessed by clicking the link on this page.
While the flurry of wind farm creation that occurred across the Pacific Northwest for the better part of the last decade has subsided, proponents of wind energy say it’s still important for utility companies and other energy experts to keep finding ways to more effectively harness the wind.
A new petition filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals aims to block a recent decision by the Bonneville Power Administration allowing the Whistling Ridge Energy Project to connect to the regional power grid. The challenge argues that BPA didn’t adequately review the impacts of the wind farm before making its decision. The action adds more uncertainty to a project that has lingered in limbo for years.
Environmental groups Friends of the Columbia Gorge (Friends) and Save Our Scenic Area (SOSA) filed a petition for judicial review in the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week challenging a recent decision by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to approve the Whistling Ridge Energy Project’s application to connect to BPA’s energy grid.
Opponents of a wind farm on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge are challenging the approval to connect the project to the energy grid.
The government's Energy Information Administration detailed the findings earlier this month in a study that showed falling wind energy production in California, Oregon and Washington state — typically known as a bastion for clean energy development. The agency didn't say how the wind energy slump would affect the electric grid, but it did say it could hinder wind farms from taking advantage of a key federal tax subsidy and harm their economic viability. Clean energy companies rely on the subsidy to fund projects. ...Even small changes in wind speed can dramatically reduce electricity output from wind turbines.
It can be difficult to know exactly how many bird deaths a proposed wind farm may cause while it’s still under review, New said. The only way to know for sure is to build it and observe it, she said. But by then, it’s unlikely that the problem will be fixed. “You’re not going to take it down and move it if you’ve built it in the wrong place,” New said.
In 2012, the county repealed the moratorium for all but 4,500 acres of the area. That’s when Save Our Scenic Area and Friends of the Columbia Gorge filed the lawsuit. The entire moratorium eventually lapsed. Shortly after the moratorium was repealed, the county approved plans for the Whistling Ridge Energy Project, a wind farm just outside the Gorge scenic area boundary near Underwood.
In this important ruling, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington upheld the Court of Appeals order that Skamania failed to follow the requirements under the Growth Management Act.
On the plus side, the $130 million investment means the PUD satisfies state renewable energy requirements through 2027 under current law. But there’s the tiny matter of wind farms running a $1 million-per-month loss, with no profits projected anytime soon, thanks to a depressed market for the power. It’s like owning a rental home in an area with too many rentals and not enough renters and having to lease for a price that doesn’t cover your costs.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area, two non-profit conservation advocacy organizations missioned with protecting the Columbia River Gorge region, provided these comprehensive comments to the Bonneville Power Administration in reference to the proposed Whistling Ridge Wind Energy project. The project, owned by SDS Lumber Company, would consist of 50, 1.2 to 1.5 MW turbines. The opening portion and conclusion of the letter is provided below. The full comment letter can be accessed by clicking the link(s) on this page.
If you're one of the thousands of people who hike, hunt or camp in the national forests just south of here, you might see trees replaced with wind turbines. The U.S. Forest Service is drafting a plan that would deem more than half of the land prime for wind farms.
The preferred management plan for the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallawa-Whitman National Forests, dated February 2014, declares on page 97 that wind farms are suitable for construction in the national forests. The public only has until June 12 to submit comments.
Over the last several years the Pacific Northwest spent about $5 billion and impacted over 50,000 acres of pristine public land for the privilege of throwing away 9 billion kWhrs of carbon-free energy every year. Just so we can meet an arbitrary state mandate, claim we’re green, and make a few folks lots of money in tax credits, the cost of which gets passed onto the rate-payers and tax-payers.
Energy policy in the United States has less to do with kilowatt-hours than it does lobbyist hours. Policy that fosters the development of new technology, as the credits for wind and solar were intended to do, has its place. When the technology – alternative or conventional – matures, it’s time to move on.
Seeking to curb how much power it must buy from the Stateline Wind Project in Umatilla and Walla Walla counties, the utility earlier this month sued J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corp., a branch of New York-based J.P. Morgan, which owns the contract requiring EWEB to buy power from Stateline through 2026.
A wind turbine snapped its spine and fell to the ground last weekend at the Stateline Wind Farm near Touchet in Walla Walla County.
The region now has a wind power capacity, on paper, of 4,500 megawatts. That is certainly a lot. The law requires large utilities to obtain 15 percent renewables by 2020. All this windy carbonless renewability raises some reasonable questions, such as: How much? Who pays? Is there a better way? Are we actually reducing our carbon footprint, or are we covering Eastern Washington with windmills and raising our electric rates for not much environmental gain? I would like to know.
The future of this controversial project remains in limbo even after the court's decision, with important decisions yet to be made by state and federal agencies, no apparent market for the relatively small amount of energy the project might produce, and the phasing out of wind energy tax breaks and subsidies.