Chicago-based Invenergy Wind North America applied on Wednesday with Kittitas County to construct a $250 million, 69-turbine wind farm sandwiched between Vantage Highway and Interstate 90 southeast of the existing Wild Horse Wind Power Project on the east end of the county.
Invenergy, with a local office in Portland, Ore., wants to start construction in late spring or early summer 2008 and have the project completed and generating power by December 2008 or January 2009.
Invenergy officials are calling the wind farm the Vantage Wind Project, noting it stretches for 4,750 acres just west of the community of Vantage and east of Kittitas in a long, rectangular area north of Interstate 90 and south of Vantage Highway.
“We’ve been examining the location since October 2004 and believe it has good wind resources and good access to existing power lines,” said Mike Logsdon, director of business development for Invenergy’s wind-power arm in North America. “And we have turbines available that we have already purchased for this project and others we are planning.”
Invenergy filed its application late Wednesday with the county Community Development Services Department and is seeking approval under the county’s new pre-identified wind farm siting ordinance.
The new rules were adopted July 19 and identifies an approximate 500-square-mile area on the county’s east end as generally compatible for wind farms due to its remote location, sparse population and few homes in the area.
The elongated project area between the two highways takes in land owned by four entities: Don Gerard of Eastsound, Doris Clerf of Kittitas, Poison Springs LLC of Kittitas and and state-owned acreage managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The company plans to use General Electric turbines that each have a generation capacity of 1.5 megawatts. The towers, planned for open ridge tops, will be 354 feet high from the tip of a vertically-extended rotor blade to the ground. Total project generation capacity, is 103.5 megawatts.
Darryl Piercy, the county’s director of Community Development Services, said Invenergy officials have been in contact with the CDS Department for several years on the proposal. By utilizing the county’s pre-identified wind farm zone, the company will likely expedite the approval process.
“I’m estimating that public hearings before the county commissioners on the project could come as early as December,” Piercy said.
There are two pathways for wind-power generation companies to gain wind farm approvals in the county: file solely with the county utilizing local land-use ordinances or file with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
“There is no reason for them to go to the state,” Piercy said. “We already have an area that is pre-identified for wind farm development. It’s a very straightforward and relatively short process.”
Piercy said the review process has already begun. CDS staff will study the application and environmental assessment documents provided by Invenergy to make sure they are sufficient for an application. The county will then give public notice that a wind farm project is being sought and ask for public comment on the proposal.
The company has also handed in a proposed development agreement that outlines what it promises to do in the construction and operation of the wind farm to meet local and state land-use rules, mitigate any negative impacts and minimize the impact to the environment, including wildlife and plants.
Public comments will also be sought on the development agreement, Piercy said, prior to public hearings before county commissioners. He said the county will also review all environmental studies done by the company for the project.
Because the project is within the pre-identified area, the company will not have to come before the county Planning Commission for hearings prior to the county commissioners’ hearings.
The Invenergy application indicates the project area begins about seven miles west of the Columbia River and is about three miles southeast of the Wild Horse project, a 127-turbine wind farm owned by Puget Sound Energy that began full operation in December 2006.
The application further states that there are only two occupied residences in the project area, and all turbines have been located at least a half mile from the existing homes and structures.
Status of otherwind farm projects
• Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg: Gov. Chris Gregoire on Sept. 18 gave final approval of the 65-turbine wind farm sought by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy through the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, process.
Kittitas County officials on Oct. 17 filed an appeal in Thurston County Superior Court, ultimately seeking to overturn the decision in a challenge that will come before the state Supreme Court. The county earlier rejected the project.
• Desert Claim Wind Power Project, eight miles north of Ellensburg: The French-owned EnXco Inc., after the county in April 2005 rejected its 120-turbine project, filed with the state’s EFSEC process in November 2006 for a scaled down, 82-turbine wind farm in the approximate same location.
EFSEC ruled earlier this year the company doesn’t have to come before the county a second time to resolve land-use conflicts, and that these concerns will come before EFSEC in formal hearings that have yet to be scheduled. The company is working on a supplement to its existing environmental impact statement.
By Mike Johnston
19 October 2007
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