A wind farm developer wants to explore the potential for power generation in the hills north of Zillah.
Columbia Energy Partners of Vancouver, Wash., wants to build two meteorological towers in the Rattlesnake Hills area to determine if there’s enough wind to generate electricity.
While large-scale wind farms are already established in Klickitat and Kittitas counties, Yakima County has yet to see a turbine.
“There are people looking at the entire state for any place that shows potential for having wind. It’s like drilling for oil; you explore a lot of places,” said Chris Crowley, president of Columbia Energy, which has developed several wind farms in the Northwest including a 200-megawatt project in Arlington, Ore., that recently sold to Horizon Wind Energy.
Measuring an area’s wind speeds is an early step in deciding whether to build a wind farm, Crowley said.
At least a year’s worth of measurements is needed before a decision on whether to build can be made, he said.
Yakima County is expected this week to grant a permit to build the towers, said Bill Bailey, development services center manager for county Department of Public Services.
Columbia Energy isn’t alone in its exploration in Yakima County.
FPL Energy, a Florida wind farm developer known for building the Stateline Wind Energy Center a 300-megawatt wind farm located near Walla Walla, is looking at land in Yakima County’s northeast corner.
Since 2003, the company has erected three meteorological towers on a ridge north of State Route 24 near the Benton County line.
There’s been more interest to find wind sites now that utility companies are trying to adhere to Initiative 937, which calls for 15 percent of the state’s energy to be renewable by 2020, said Troy Gagliano, a senior policy associate for the Renewable Northwest Project.
“What that tells people is that utilities in Washington are a market for renewable (energy),” Gagliano said.
But whether that energy will come from Yakima Valley is uncertain.
Crowley of Columbia Energy Partners said it may be years before it builds a wind farm in the Valley, even if they decide to build there.
FPL Energy also is tentative in its plans.
“We see potential in the area,” said FPL Energy spokesman Steve Stengel. “But until you get in there and get some hard data, you just don’t know for sure.”
By Mai Hoang
15 February 2007
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