March 27, 2015

North-Central Oregon wind farm dies

Application withdraw for project in Wasco and Sherman counties | By Beau Eastes | The Bulletin | Published Mar 27, 2015 |

A multinational renewable energy giant has pulled out of a proposed wind-power plant that would have encompassed parts of Sherman and Wasco counties.

On Feb. 25, Maxwell Woods of the Oregon Department of Energy sent out an email announcing that E.ON Climate & Renewables North America had withdrawn its application for the 76,000-acre Brush Canyon Wind Power Facility that would have had as many as 223 wind turbines – some reaching within 2 miles of Antelope and Shaniko.

The company is a subsidiary of German-based E.ON SE, which bills itself as the largest investor-owned utility in the world.

According to plans on the Energy Department’s website, E.ON Climate & Renewables North America issued a notice of intent in October 2011 for Brush Canyon, which would have been the second-largest wind-power plant in the state. Expected to generate up to 533 megawatts, Brush Canyon made it through several steps in the application process but never moved beyond the Energy Facility Siting Council’s draft proposed order.

The council, which convenes every other month, last mentioned the Brush Canyon project at its July 18, 2014, meeting, in which it approved a new hearings officer for the proposed wind-power facility.

“We don’t know why they pulled out, but it’s not unusual,” said Rachel Wray, a spokeswoman for the state Energy Department. “We’ve had a number of projects pulled over the last couple of years. Some that had gone a ways through the (permitting) process … and others that were a lot less far along. It really varies.”

Wind projects across the country became less profitable in December when the U.S. Congress allowed a wind-production tax credit to expire. Enacted in 1992 to help spark renewable energy startups, the tax credit paid qualified developers 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced for the first 10 years of each wind project.

The demise of the Brush Canyon wind farm was met with applause from some local residents. Antelope Mayor John Silvertooth, a vocal opponent of the project since its inception, was elated that E.ON will no longer be trying to generate wind power in Central Oregon.

“It’s like a doctor telling a patient he’s in remission,” Silvertooth said, “or waking up from brain surgery and hearing everything was a success.”

Silvertooth and other residents of rural Sherman and Wasco counties were worried the Brush Canyon project would irrevocably change their quiet communities. In August, Silvertooth told The Bulletin that it was his understanding that construction trucks for the wind farm would increase traffic in Antelope by 600 percent.

Despite his problems with E.ON and its proposed wind project, Silvertooth says he is far from an opponent of green energy.

“The whole approach by these big, huge projects, that’s not the solution,” Silvertooth said. “These people give renewable energy a bad name. We desperately need it. Hopefully, there’ll be some new thinking on how to use wind energy’s potential.”

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