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The United States is expected to be home to an anticipated 49,000 MW of installed wind-power capacity by 2015, making it the world's largest wind-power producer, according to a recent report. Developers are expected to invest more than $65 billion between 2007 and 2015 in wind-power facilities, researchers say.
Environmental lobbyists are more powerful than they've ever been, financed now not only with tax-deductible contributions from the public, and "reconveyance fees" assessed on every home sale (a growing phenomenon - watch out), but also today with "carbon offset" funds. Returning to the Kittitas Valley in Washington state, these wealthy environmentalists, backed by wind energy corporations who are thrilled to milk the anti-CO2 hysteria for all it's worth, are cramming this massive wind installation down the throats of the local residents.
ELLENSBURG - A wind-power company on Tuesday warned that any further reduction in the number of turbines for the proposed Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project will increase the price of its power output and hurt its ability to compete economically in the power-sales market. Cutting more turbines from the project will be required, according to Horizon Wind Energy officials, if the state orders a lengthening of the distance between turbine towers and existing homes of people not participating in the project through leasing their land to the wind farm.
Some people feel they just want to get the process over with, while others see no need for the project at all. "I really think the majority of the approximate 38,000 residence of Kittitas County care little about who decides this issue. As long as we use a little objectivity and common sense," an audience member said at the forum. "All I can find is that there is no benefit to our community, other than specific people that will be payed to put windmills on their property," explained Bill Fitzgerald, who owns property near where the proposed wind farm would go.
The permit process for the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project has taken 4 1/2 years already, so what's another couple of weeks? The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recommended the project's approval in May, not expecting to revisit it. But after a request from Gov. Chris Gregoire, the agency reopened talks on the matter at a pair of hearings Tuesday in Ellensburg. Per Gregoire's request, the discussion was limited to whether the project's wind turbines could be placed farther from nearby landowners "while allowing the project to remain economically viable." "She made it clear that she thought the council did a good job of everything else," said Adam Torem, the administrative law judge overseeing the process.
A state siting board will hear comments today to consider whether new setbacks should be required for the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project. The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will hold two sessions today, from 3-5 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m., at the Teanaway Hall, Kittitas County Event Center, in Ellensburg. In May, EFSEC recommended Gov. Chris Gregoire to approve the project, allowing up to 65 wind turbines to be built by Horizon Wind Energy of Houston along ridges on either side of Highway 97 outside of Ellensburg. The turbines would be the size of old-growth firs and have propeller blades up to 145 feet long. However, the governor asked for the setbacks to be reconsidered by EFSEC, which had required setbacks of four times the height of the turbines for non-participating residences.
ELLENSBURG - A 500-square-mile zone on Kittitas County's east end was approved by county commissioners on Wednesday as an area pre-identified as compatible for wind farm development. The zone stretches along the Columbia River and the county's southeast border. Final approval of the new zone is expected to come 3 p.m. July 19 when final documents are signed. Commissioner Chairman Alan Crankovich on Thursday said commissioners approved the addition of wording to the zone that would indicate that wind farm developers also must gain approval for their projects from private, state and federal landowners in the area. This includes the U.S. Defense Department that owns Yakima Training Center lands administered by the U.S. Army and Fort Lewis. "I'm not as optimistic as my fellow commissioners are on the availability of state, federal and military lands for wind farms," Crankovich said. He said he doesn't want creation of the zone to give wind farm companies "false hope" that they can easily site a project in the zone.
ELLENSBURG - A public meeting has been set for July 17 in Ellensburg in an effort to answer Gov. Christine Gregoire's question about the proposed Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, a wind farm planned for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg. In order for the governor to make a final decision on the 65-turbine project, she wants to know if the setback or buffer distances can be lengthened between turbine towers and residences of people not participating in the project and still allow the wind farm to be economically viable.
Increasing commodity costs, the weakening U.S. dollar and government mandates spurring demand all have driven up construction costs of wind farms, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council was told Tuesday. Costs for other kinds of power plants also increased, said Jeff King, a senior resource analyst for the council. In addition, representatives from two Northwest utilities and the Bonneville Power Administration reported that Northwest dams don't have enough flexibility remaining to supplement and smooth the intermittent power supplies generated by new wind farms.
Desert Claim Wind Power wants the state to lay aside Kittitas County's past rejection of its wind farm project, conduct its own hearings on the wind farm's compatibility with county land-use rules and, ultimately, approve its 82-turbine proposal.
The November passage of Initiative 937 adds Washington to the states with renewable portfolio standards. Wind-powered generation is a resource of choice in meeting renewable standards, and it has been highly touted for its environmental benefits. Considered in isolation, the environmental benefits of a wind resource are undoubtedly warranted. However, it is misleading to consider wind on an isolated basis—that is, outside of the context of the full power-supply portfolio that is necessary to serve load. In the context of an integrated portfolio, much of the environmental benefit disappears and may even be non-existent as compared with other resource portfolio choices. In particular, a full assessment of the impact of wind resources on the environment necessitates a look at the energy consequences of adding wind-generation to an integrated portfolio in the context of meeting load. Accounting for energy, it is likely that there is no significant environmental difference between a resource portfolio adding wind generation and one adding high-efficiency combined-cycle gas turbines. It is also likely that the wind-based portfolio results in little reduction, if any, in the need for fossil fuels and therefore little reduction in the exposure to their price swings and environmental consequences. That is, the emissions and fossil-fuel impacts of a wind-based portfolio appear little better than a non-wind-based portfolio. Editor's Note: This paper makes a critically important point re. wind's purported environmental benefits, i.e. "...it is misleading to consider wind on an isolated basis—that is, outside of the context of the full power-supply portfolio that is necessary to serve load. In the context of an integrated portfolio, much of the environmental benefit disappears and may even be non-existent as compared with other resource portfolio choices." In short, wind's environmental benefits (if any) will be grid-specific depending on the emissions generated (if any) of the reliable generating source(s) required to back it up.
Kittitas County Commission Chairman Alan Crankovich said the county's legal staff will examine a citizen complaint that commissioners allowed new information on proposed changes to the county development code to surface during a Wednesday hearing that was closed to public questions, testimony and comments. Crankovich said those expressing the complaint claim the information was not brought forth during a series of public hearings that ended June 14 during which citizens could have questioned, commented or rebutted them.
Setback requirements are a protection of the public health, safety and individual property rights - not a yardstick of a project's economic success. The people who have the most experience with commercial wind power today are the Europeans. They are saying that a minimum of one mile from residences and any turbine should be imposed to protect the public. But the bigger issue here is that our locally elected officials denied the project as designed and the governor believes she should override local land use authority based on how much more money Horizon can make.
The developer of a wind power project in central Washington, having hit an impasse, is going "over the heads" of local planning officials. Desert Claim Wind Power, owned by wind developer enXco, today asked Washington State officials to recommend approval of its wind farm in Kittitas County that could power nearly 55,000 homes, the company announced. Desert Claim Wind Power made a motion asking the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to pre-empt local Kittitas County, and recommend approval of the wind farm.
ELLENSBURG -- The wind blows so hard over these desert ridges that it topples outhouses. It whistles through the high steel towers strung with cables that carry electricity west to light the cities of Puget Sound. The hills west of Ellensburg, then, would seem an ideal spot for giant wind turbines to help quench the Northwest's thirst for clean, home-grown energy. Instead, they have become a battleground as some locals and Kittitas County officials square off against environmentalists and wind-power companies over putting towering generators near rural homes that dot these hills and valleys. Now the fivc-year-old debate has reached all the way to the governor's office, elevating this beyond a classic not-in-my-backyard tale in a sparsely populated county. The outcome of this fight could set a precedent for future fights over wind power in the state as demand continues to mount.
Gov. Chris Gregoire wants one piece of information in order to make a final decision on the controversial Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, a 65-turbine wind farm proposed for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg. The governor late Friday morning called on the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to reconsider its March 27 decision that recommended she approve the estimated $150 million project proposed by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy. Her decision calling for reconsideration is limited to having EFSEC re-examine the buffer between wind-power turbines and homes of people who are not leasing their land to the wind farm. In a letter to EFSEC issued Friday, Gregoire said she wants to know if the setback distance can be lengthened between turbines and homes not involved in the Kittitas Valley wind farm - going beyond the maximum 1,640 feet as recommended by EFSEC - and still allow Horizon's wind farm to remain economically viable.
Northwest ratepayers got a boost recently when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., convinced the House Natural Resources Committee to agree that hydropower is a renewable energy resource. It was an important vote for ratepayers in general and for the many interests dependent upon the four Lower Snake River dams in particular. Some environmental groups are passionately in favor of breaching those dams. It will be more difficult when they - and perhaps the federal courts - have to factor in that dams are even "greener" than windmills and solar panels. "Hydropower is a clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy source that serves as a key component in our national environmental and energy policy objectives," McMorris Rodgers said. "It's about time Congress recognized that hydropower is renewable and emissions-free."
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) peddled a Democratic energy bill in her party's radio address Saturday despite the bill stalling over a dispute on renewable energy this week.
People who want a 360-square-mile expansion of a proposed east-county wind farm zone made their point Monday that the zone will only be effective if it is expanded along the east-west high-voltage power-line corridor across the county. Their comments came during a hearing examining recommended changes in the county's development code, which includes zoning designations and related rules. Some are opposed to expanding the county-proposed wind farm zone saying it takes in rural residential homes and future home sites. County commissioners earlier proposed establishing a 500-square-mile zone on the county's east end, along the Columbia River, that would be pre-identified as an area compatible for wind farm development.
A tax break that has helped spur the development of windmill farms in Washington state could be extended for five years as part of the new Senate energy bill, Sen. Maria Cantwell said Wednesday. But the ability to carry that power from turbines in some of the wind-swept regions of the Northwest to the customers who need it isn't part of the proposal at this time.