Wind Power Expands in East, Midwest, But Takes a Blow in Pacific Northwest
New projects and commitments are boosting wind power's prominence in the East and Midwest. However, planners in the Pacific Northwest, where wind power's presence is strongest, have suggested a moratorium on two projects that would have added at least 150 wind turbines in one Washington county. In Washington, D.
New projects and commitments are boosting wind power’s prominence in the East and Midwest. However, planners in the Pacific Northwest, where wind power’s presence is strongest, have suggested a moratorium on two projects that would have added at least 150 wind turbines in one Washington county.
In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Army, the National Geographic Society and Catholic University have each announced commitments to purchase up to 1.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity produced by a new facility located in the West Virginia mountains. The Mountaineer Wind Energy Center will be the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi when it goes on line in December, generating 66 MW at full capacity. Power from the facility will be marketed under Community Energy, Inc.’s New Wind Energy brand.
And in September, Basin Electric Power Cooperative announced an agreement with FPL Energy, LLC, for the construction of two 40-MW wind farms, one each in North Dakota and South Dakota. The cooperative’s member systems have service territories stretching across much of the U.S. midsection, from Canada to Mexico. The projects will also require the construction of 11 miles of 115-kilovolt transmission line.
In the Pacific Northwest, however, the planning commission in Kittitas County, Washington, this summer recommended a six-month moratorium on wind-turbine construction there. Although final authority lies with the county commissioners, this group is anticipated to accept the planners’ recommendation in a November meeting.
The most immediate impact will be on a 150-turbine project planned on 10,000 acres of ridgeline near Ellensburg, Wash., located about 100 miles southeast of Seattle. According to a Seattle Times report, the planning commission was responding to citizen concerns that the 300-foot turbines would ruin scenic views for which the region is famous.
Wind turbines have become increasingly common on the Pacific Northwest skyline over the past few years. Walla Walla County, on the Washington-Oregon border some 135 miles southeast of Ellensburg, is home to the region’s largest wind farm, where 399 turbines generate enough electricity to light approximately 60,000 homes.
Some in the Ellensburg area see the controversy as the continuation of the West’s ongoing conflict over property rights. The project most immediately affected by the Kittitas Planning Commission decision was one of two planned in the county, and dozens of area landowners had contracted to accept payments in return for having turbines placed on their property. Where opponents see the turbines as a public nuisance, affected landowners see the resulting lease income as a way to help them hold onto their ranches and other properties in a distressed economy.
From Pure Power, Winter 2002