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.
Desert Claim, a subsidiary of EnXco Inc., on June 28 filed a request with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to pre-empt the county’s 2005 decision and recognize that Desert Claim has tried unsuccessfully to resolve all issues with the county.
The company in November filed with EFSEC for approval of a scaled-back version of its project that called for a 90-turbine wind farm eight miles north of Ellensburg, down from 120 turbines in its original project.
According to a recent news release from Desert Claim, the project has been further downsized to 82 turbines spread on 4,783 acres.
Kittitas County officials, after the company filed with the state in November, contended that EFSEC rules require the firm to first apply to the county for review of the project. Desert Claim disagreed and asked EFSEC to rule that the project was essentially the same one rejected by the county in 2005, and a second application was not necessary.
EFSEC in a May 8 ruling agreed, saying the county’s wind farm review process duplicates the state’s, but the state’s process takes precedent over the county. Although EFSEC said Desert Claim didn’t need to file with the county, the company said it would meet with the county in attempts to resolve land-use and project concerns.
David Steeb, Desert Claim project director, on Friday said a meeting in May with the county was helpful, but was unable to resolve differences in the turbine setback distances from residences.
“It’s now time to move on in the EFSEC process and for the state to consider the project for its economic benefits to the county and to the region’s power needs,” Steeb said.
The next step would be hearings before EFSEC, which would involve county government, to decide on the project.
Steeb said the county is asking for setbacks of about 2,500 feet, but Desert Claim is using a standard earlier set by EFSEC of four times the eight of a turbine, or 1,656 feet for the Desert Claim project. He said applying the EFSEC standard reduced Desert Claim turbines from 90 to 82.
Steeb noted that the company is further evaluating its project in light of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s decision on June 22 that asked EFSEC to consider the possibility of turbine setbacks longer than four times the height of a turbine tower in regard to another county-based wind farm project.
Allen Fiksdal, EFSEC manager, said the seven-member council will meet July 10 and will review the Desert Claim motion, among other items. He said no schedule of EFSEC hearings for the Desert Claim project has been set.
County Commissioner Alan Crankovich on Friday said the county continues to maintain that Desert Claim, as part of the overall EFSEC process, must first apply to the county for project approval before the wind farm can be formally reviewed by the county.
EFSEC considers governor’s decision July 10
Officials with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council on Friday said the council membership will meet 1:30 p.m. July 10 in Olympia to discuss how it will respond to the governor’s June 22 decision on the 65-turbine Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, planned for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg.
The governor called on EFSEC to reconsider its March 27 recommendation to approve the project but only focus on one issue: whether setbacks between turbines and non-participating homes and property lines in the project area can be lengthened farther than 1,640 feet and still maintain the economic viability of the project.
EFSEC Manager Allen Fiksdal said the options available to the council in responding to Gov. Chris Gregoire are to reopen adjudicative hearings on the single issue, or submit information on the issue contained in the past record of hearings and submitted documents.
By Mike Johnston
2 July 2007
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