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Study looks at wind farm impact on Union  

Credit:  By Bill Rautenstrauch, The La Grande Observer, www.eastoregonian.com 5 September 2011 ~~

A recently-completed study on possible impacts of the proposed Antelope Ridge Farm on the city of Union says that while the likelihood of serious impacts is mostly low, the city may have trouble paying for them if they do occur.

The independent review, looking at possible impacts to the city in nine study areas, was ordered by the state Energy Facility Siting Council, the body that has final say in approval of the Antelope Ridge application for a site certificate.

Among issues looked at by ECONorthwest were possible devaluation of property, potential loss of property tax revenue and possible extra costs for city services.

On the property value question, the report concedes that some literature suggests wind facilities may potentially diminish property values.

On the other hand, the report cites studies that say impacts on property values have been small and temporary.

The study concludes there is a low likelihood of property value impact – but if impact did occur, the decline could register as much as 12 percent. Impact to properties within the project footprint could be much higher, perhaps 40 percent.

The report says drawing conclusions on property values from available literature is “challenging” because few studies have evaluated wind energy projects within a similar geographic context as Union.

“Impacts derived from wind farms in Illinois or Wisconsin may be transferable to Union County, but there are many differences, such as the quality and characteristic of views and preferences of the local population that may compound such a comparison and lead to over or under-estimating the actual impacts,” the study said.

On the property tax revenue question, the study looked at four different growth scenarios covering 50-year periods.

In the scenario where the city would collect the least property taxes, net value would decline by up to $0.7 million. The scenario projects a short-term loss, then low annual growth.

On impacts to city services, the study says there is a high likelihood of impact to the city’s water supply during the project’s construction phase.

Depending on the water source used and extra infrastructure needed, the city’s operational costs could go up between $140,000 to $180,000.

In other areas, the study projects low likelihood of impacts on police, fire and emergency services, but says costs to the city in those areas and others in the study area could increase, especially during construction.

It is a situation that bears watching, because resources are already stretched thin, the study says.

“Because the city’s resources are already below those required to meet current needs in some of these areas, namely emergency services, any increased demand could impact the city’s residents and consequently be significant,” the report says.

Other areas looked at by ECONorthwest included sewer, stormwater and waste; and traffic safety.

Antelope Ridge Power Project LLC, a subsidiary of Horizon Wind Energy, has applied to the state for a permit to construct the Antelope Ridge Wind farm in the Craig Mountain area near Union. The application is currently under review by EFSC.

The controversial project would involve erecting up to 164 wind turbines, varying in height from 328 to 475 feet. The wind farm would be built on 11,000 acres of land. It would generate up to 300 megawatts of electricity.

Union City Manager Sandra Patterson said in a press release this week the ECONorthwest report affords both the city and the wind farm developers the opportunity to raise concerns and objections to EFSC.

She also said the report could be a factor if either the city or the developers decided to appeal an EFSC decision.

“It is the city’s position to protect Union citizens and businesses,” Patterson said.

ECONorthwest, founded in 1974, is a consulting firm specializing in economics, planning and finance.

Its complete report is posted at the city of Union website, www.cityofunion.com.

Source:  By Bill Rautenstrauch, The La Grande Observer, www.eastoregonian.com 5 September 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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