With wind-turbine farms in heavy construction in Klickitat and Sherman counties, it was only a matter of time before a large project surfaced in Wasco County.
That was the case Thursday at the Discovery Center, when a small contingent of local people turned out to hear a presentation by UPC Wind, a Newton, Maine-based company.
UPC’s project, Cascade Wind, would place 40 General Electric 1.5 megawatt wind turbines in a seven-mile footprint on (appropriately enough) Sevenmile Hill.
Power generated along the ridge would be brought to a new substation and connected to an existing 115 kilovolt line that runs from The Dalles to Hood River. The total capacity of the project would be 60 megawatts.
“You have a world-class resource in the gorge,” UPC’s Krista Kisch told the audience. She characterized the winds in the proposed Cascade Wind project area as “good to excellent, at 8.5 to 9 meters a second.”
She called the terrain in the project area “complex,” requiring calculations of wind shear so that placement doesn’t cause turbulence for the next tower downwind.
Most of the land in the project area is zoned A-2 Agriculture and F-2 Forest Zone. Kisch said 85 percent of the towers would be located in open fields.
UPC’s American headquarters are in Maine, but the company originally began in Europe 10 years ago, and has been in the U.S. for the past seven years. Kisch said the company currently has 3,600 megawatts planned in 35 projects under development.
“¢ Three of the projects are up and running:
“¢ Kaheawa Wind Power, a 30 megawatt project on the island of Maui
“¢ Steel Winds, a 20 megawatt project on a former brownfield site near Buffalo, N.Y.
“¢ Mars Hill, a 42 megawatt project at Mars Hill, Maine.
“¢ Also in development is the 200-megawatt Milford Wind Corridor in west central Utah.
“¢ Kisch said UPC has negotiated leases for tower sites locally and conducted site surveys by Northwest Wildlife consultants of Pendleton.
“We have a pretty good idea of what lives and flies around our project site,” she said.
The company has also assembled a team that includes a public relations firm, The Ulum Group of Portland and Eugene, engineering by Tetra Tech EC of Morris, N.J. and attorneys from Stoel, Reeves in Portland.
UPC has also opened a local office at 414 Washington Street, Suite 2A, and joined The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce.
A second public information meeting is planned for May, and basic information about the project is available at a new website, http://cascadewind.com.
There will be some differences in the permitting process for this application. Rather than take the traditional route through the county, Cascade Wind’s application will go through Oregon’s Department of Energy, Energy Facility Site Council.
Why the change? It has to do with an outdated county ordinance.
“In Oregon, counties have the right to regulate wind projects under 104 megawatts,” Kisch said. “But Wasco County’s land use ordinance only covers projects up to 25 megawatts.”
Kisch said that meant applying through the state.
Wasco County Planning Director Todd Cornett said that doesn’t mean the county’s interests aren’t going to be represented.
“The first thing the state will do is consult with us,” Cornett said. “They’ll be checking on every tower, the roads, transmission lines, multiple zonings, and overlay zones.”
Cornett said state regulators will conduct their meetings locally so residents don’t have to go to Salem to hear the meetings or testify.
“In essence, they’ll have to pass both the state standards and the county standards,” Cornett said.
One standard that won’t apply will be that of the National Scenic Area. All of the turbines are located outside the boundary.
Some of the turbines will be visible from parts of the scenic area, but, as Kisch noted, “there is no buffer” extending visibility requirements beyond the borders of the NSA.
These are not tiny towers. Those familiar with the pioneering Klondike Wind Farm in Sherman County will recognize GE 1.5 megawatt turbines, which are the standard in the industry, “From the base of tower to the tip of blade is 390 feet,” Kisch said.
She also mentioned a number of assets the wind farm could bring to Wasco County, including construction wages, lease revenue for landowners, some long-term employment and tax revenue, though the company will be applying for Wasco County’s Rural Renewable Energy Development Zone (RREDZ), which provides property tax exemptions for the first three to five years of operation for qualifying projects.
There is also a highly desirable federal production tax credit that expires on Dec. 31, 2008. Projects must be up and running by that time to qualify.
Kisch noted Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s proposal to require electricity providers to have 25 percent of their supply be from renewable energy by 2025.
“With that potential, we will be setting aside credit for local placement,” Kisch said.
She also reminded those in the audience that wind power uses no fuel, produces no byproduct and has no emissions.
And she spoke favorably of the windsmith program at Columbia Gorge Community College as an example of the community’s interest and investment in wind power.
By Rodger Nichols
The Dalles Chronicle
13 March 2007
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