Articles from Oregon
The city council doesn't want to see windmills surrounding Milton-Freewater. Thursday morning, about six hours before a Umatilla County Planning Commission meeting to discuss windmills, the city council unanimously approved a resolution and letter to the commission declaring its "serious concern" with windmills going up in the viewshed along the Blue Mountains. It asked the planning commission to come up with rules for where it places wind farms and power lines within the viewshed.
Wind turbines are the hottest rage in 'going green' but the technology has a dangerous side for endangered salmon in the Columbia River. ...it is important to understand that there are serious concerns to consider. You see, when the wind is really blowing and the farms are operating at maximum capacity, the present system will not be able to handle all of that electricity, which ultimately affects fish. This isn't just a theory - it actually happened recently. At the end of June, there was an unexpected surge in wind power and too much energy was created for the regional grid to handle. To compensate, the dams cut their power by spilling more water.
Area farmers and ranchers got a rundown Tuesday of how to deal with what could be called Oregon's new gold rush: The land grab for wind power as Oregon and the nation aim for higher and higher green energy standards. Christian Sarason, project manager with 3 TIER North America, a wind assessment firm, said the rush is on. "The gold rush is happening right now," he said. "It's the gold rush and there's going to be continuing pressure to prospect all over the place."
Citizens in the Milton-Freewater area took another opportunity to voice their opposition to wind turbines in the Blue Mountains at a city council meeting Monday night. What started as an informational meeting by Horizon Wind Farms representative Valerie Schafer-Franklin turned into a discussion between citizens both on and off Weston Mountain about what they want to see happen, or not happen, in the Blues.
The idea of looking out onto the foothills of the Blue Mountains from Highway 11 or Milton-Freewater and seeing wind turbines sounds like a nightmare for some people who look at that view every day. But not many of those people have had much of a chance to express their frustration. Citizen Richard Jolly hosted a meeting Thursday in Milton-Freewater where many people got a chance to vet their frustrations and discuss their concerns.
Chris Crowley, head of Columbia Energy Partners, filed separate applications for the three wind projects he called the Echanis, East Ridge and West Ridge wind farms. They lie next to each other ...Each would generate a maximum of 104 megawatts. Any project with a capacity of 105 megawatts or more triggers review by the state. The county reviews smaller ones. "These are blatant attempts to circumvent the public process," said Dave Becker, an attorney with the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The state's Energy Facility Siting Council should review the projects, he said.
Steens Mountain stretches through the open lands of southeastern Oregon's Harney County for more than 30 miles, a twisting spine of rock and brush punctuated by steep gorges and rushing streams. Remote and rugged, it has come to symbolize the state's wild, austere side. It's also becoming a battleground for a wind power developer that sees gold in the Steens' stiff breezes -- and red in the eyes of environmentalists. At issue are about 200 wind turbines that Columbia Energy Partners wants to build along the northern boundary of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. ...The conflicts come into sharp relief in a state that prizes its green credentials and its pristine lands.
Can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to wind power? The Bonneville Power Administration is confronting that question this summer. The regional grid operator has a pile of new connection requests from wind farm developers. There wouldn't be much of a story if you could schedule the wind minute-by-minute. But correspondent Tom Banse reports a fickle energy source like this makes life in the control room more interesting. ...Twice this summer, they've been put to the test by unexpectedly large surges of wind power.
California, whose laws require it to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010, has its eyes on Oregon's growing wind power industry. "They're certainly trying to grab it everywhere they can," said Lee Beyer, chairman of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. ...California already imports hydropower in the summer; Oregon and Washington take deliveries from California generators in cold winter months. But Oregon and Washington also face clean energy laws and want the energy too.
The foothills of the Blue Mountains near Athena and Weston may become the site for a future wind farm or two. That, at least, is where multiple companies are gathering wind information and attempting to generate landowner interest. "We're speaking to quite a few landowners," said Valerie Schafer Franklin, project development manager for Horizon Wind, in July. "We're not actually looking at this project being built in probably three to five years."
California is the big dog in the fight, reaching into the Northwest to buy large amounts of wind power from Columbia Gorge projects. Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and San Francisco's Pacific Gas & Electric are among those securing long-term contracts for hundreds of megawatts of wind power in Oregon and Washington. "They're certainly trying to grab it everywhere they can," said Lee Beyer, chairman of the Oregon Public Utility Commission, which regulates the state's large utilities. The motivation behind California's quest? A rigorous law that says renewable energy must account for 20 percent of electricity sales by 2010.
Whether the reports of health hazards are true or not is almost irrelevant. Just the fact that many people are truly concerned about the potential health effects of living near a wind farm, or the electromagnetic radiation from high voltage electrical wires, is reason enough to try to avoid buying a property that is close to power lines. It's a simple law of economics: As demand for a product goes down, so does its price. When you have a certain number of people avoiding a certain property, for whatever reason, the price of that property will be negatively affected.
Southern California Edison has signed a contract with an energy company to build a 909-megawatt wind farm in north-central Oregon, which would provide enough electricity for about 600,000 homes, according to Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for the utility. The utility already gets about 16 percent of its energy from renewable sources and has signed contracts that will soon move that number to 20 percent, officials said.
Baker City Manager Steve Brocato doesn't want Baker City to "start looking like Boardman." He's afraid a proposed Idaho Power transmission line that will pass through Baker County - and perhaps skirt the east side of Baker City - might do just that. Brocato told city councilors Tuesday the proposed power line "will detract from the beauty of this area" and believes its presence will spawn more wind farms, which he said are "detrimental to the beauty of the community and don't contribute to economic development." ..."If the county grants a wind farm, it should be somewhere where we can't see them and I would like the caveat that it has to be built by a local industry."
In Harney County, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the county have seen a jump in interest surrounding the windy Eastern Oregon ridges and peaks near Steens Mountain as wind development companies look for different sources of the renewable power to meet state standards. Harney County has already permitted one wind farm and is considering three more ... But the wind farms that have either been approved or are under construction would add 2,400 megawatts to that total in the coming years, he said. "Oregon in the next couple of years will move from around ninth in the country (for wind power production) to maybe third," Torres said.
Sherry Eaton pulled into the driveway of her rural, high-desert home to see one of several giant wind turbines being assembled a half-mile away. "I started to cry," Eaton, 57, recalled of her first sight of the Willow Creek Wind Project in late July. "They're going to be hanging over the back of our house, and now there's the medical thing." "The medical thing" is new research suggesting that living close to wind turbines, as Eaton and her 60-year old husband, Mike, soon will be doing, can cause sleep disorders, difficulty with equilibrium, headaches, childhood "night terrors" and other health problems. ...Concerns also are coming out of Europe about low-frequency noise from newly built wind turbines. For example, British physician Amanda Harry, in a February 2007 article titled "Wind Turbines, Noise and Health," wrote of 39 people, including residents of New Zealand and Australia, who suffered from the sounds emitted by wind turbines.
Wind power's intermittency as an energy resource but minimal contributions toward peak-capacity needs are further evidenced in operational data from three Washington and Montana wind farms. Monthly and even daily energy production vary substantially. Officials from NorthWestern Energy and Puget Sound Energy recently shared these and other wind-power experiences, including reserve requirements (challenging) and wind forecasting (improving). These tales come from the 135 MW-capacity Judith Gap wind farm in central Montana, whose entire output NorthWestern buys from developer Invenergy Wind, and PSE's 150 MW-capacity Hopkins Ridge and 229 MW-capacity Wild Horse wind projects in southeastern and central Washington, respectively. ..."The relationship between load and wind output is almost zero," the former council member told the current council. "That's a real issue for us. We continue to learn almost every day some things about wind operations on our system."
The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council approved a site certificate for the 909 megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm. Located in Gilliam and Morrow counties, Shepherds Flat will double Oregon's current wind operating capacity of about 889 megawatts. The company that is developing the project claims it will be the world's largest wind farm.
Wind turbines have become a familiar sight in the Columbia Gorge, where strong breezes and high-voltage transmission lines offer developers a tempting combination or renewable resource and customer access. The amount of wind power in the Northwest could quadruple in the next five years. ...While the tally shows a whole-hearted embrace of clean, renewable energy, it also exposes the limits of the transmission network, or grid. Unless more power lines are added, the Northwest won't be able to handle so much wind so quickly, BPA officials said. BPA says it has only enough space on the grid for just one-third of the anticipated 4,716 megawatts. ...These are not pie-in-the-sky proposals. Developers had to back up their request requests for transmission access with cash -- $1.56 million for every 100 megawatts they wanted to put on the grid. "Those who sign and pay, stay in the game," Mainzer said. "The rest are dropped from the queue."
Call me crazy, but maybe it would be prudent to stop mandating (not to mention subsidizing and incentivizing) massive wind-energy development and start working out the kinks in wind-energy technology while we figure out what role wind should play in the energy-supply mix. Maybe examine whether wind energy will ever be a reliable, affordable energy source before Congress and the various state legislatures declare it to be a winner, without knowing how things will play out. (Think ethanol.) If not, salmon are the least of our worries.