A California-based wind energy company plans to build four to six turbines on private farmland north of Weston, with construction to begin later this year.
The Chopin Wind Project will generate 10 megawatts and connect to Pacific Power’s electrical grid via an underground transmission line. Developer BayWa Wind says it will break ground shortly before summer and aim to finish by fall. Turbines could range in height from 262 to nearly 300 feet.
Chopin has morphed into a much smaller project than when it was originally proposed in 2011. At the time, developers planned for 33 turbines and 99 megawatts, which raised concerns from a local conservation group over noise and effects on wildlife, the viewshed and property values. Umatilla County approved the turbines, but not a proposed 11-mile overhead power line.
Progress stalled. In the meantime, the county altered its setback standards for wind turbines located near homes. In August 2015, Chopin came back with a revised proposal for significantly fewer turbines and an underground transmission line. The Umatilla County Planning Commission approved building permits in January, despite some additional concerns about how the project might impact farming.
Specifically, a group of landowners wanted to see construction moved away from Staggs Road – where a portion of the line will be buried – over to Ferguson Road to avoid losing productive acreage. They filed an appeal to the Board of Commissioners, which voted 2-1 on Wednesday to uphold the planning commission’s ruling.
Commissioner George Murdock said the line will still run under Staggs Road, but they have asked BayWa to use Ferguson Road whenever possible during construction and maintenance of Chopin.
“They agreed to work with the farmers to minimize the impacts,” Murdock said. “There should be minimal impact along Staggs Road, because it shouldn’t take very long to lay the cable.”
Commissioner Larry Givens was the dissenting vote.
Chopin’s wind turbines will take up about 10 acres of Ferguson Ranch between Weston and Milton-Freewater. The transmission line will be buried at least three feet under county roads, running about 5.5 miles to Pacific Power’s existing Weston Substation.
BayWa CEO Florian Zerhusen did not say how much the project will cost. He said there is demand for the development under Oregon’s rising mandate for renewable energy.
“This project will certainly continue that effort,” Zerhusen said.
Murdock said the project will contribute to the local tax base, but he does not expect it will have an enormous impact on the county.
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