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Wind energy project proposed for Thurston, Lewis counties

A 52-turbine wind energy project called Skookumchuck Wind Energy has been pitched for the southeast corner of Thurston County and northeast Lewis County.

The project has been proposed by the U.S. division of Renewable Energy Systems, also known as RES Americas, headquartered in Colorado. A company representative could not be reached Wednesday.

“The proposal to develop the project is in response to increasing demands for electricity and the requirement under Washington state law that utilities meet a defined portion of their customer demand from clean, renewable sources of energy,” a legal notice reads. The notice was published in Sunday’s Olympian.

The company proposes to build the wind energy project, which would generate as much as 180 megawatts of power, within one mile of Skookumchuck Reservoir – the nearest landmark – on land owned by Weyerhaeuser. The project would occupy a portion of the timber company’s Vail Tree Farm south of the town of Rainier, according to Anthony Chavez, a spokesman for Weyerhaeuser.

The majority of the project is in Lewis County, according to the legal notice. A map included in Thurston County paperwork for the proposal shows 38 turbines in Lewis County and 14 in Thurston. Project construction is expected to take 18 months, with the turbines operational in December 2018.

The wind turbines, according to a project description, have a maximum height between 450 feet and 500 feet.

“We have an agreement in place with RES Americas to develop a commercial-scale wind farm,” Chavez said.

This isn’t something new for the company, Chavez said. Wind farms already occupy Weyerhaeuser property in Maine and West Virginia, he said.

“We have the land, we lease it out, and the projects have minimal impact on timberland operations,” Chavez said.

RES Americas also intends to “interconnect with Puget Sound Energy,” according to the legal notice.

PSE spokesman Ray Lane provided a statement about the proposal:

“PSE has had a long, productive partnership with RES Americas, a company we’ve worked with on previous wind projects. RES Americas is in the early stages of planning and evaluating the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project along the Thurston-Lewis county line. We are aware of their work on this project. Past this, there’s not much more for us to say at this point.”

RES Americas has been involved with other wind energy projects in the state.

The company website identifies four Eastern Washington locations: Wild Horse Wind Farm in Ellensburg, Harvest Wind in Klickitat County, Nine Canyon Wind Farm Phase 1 in the Tri-Cities and Marengo Wind Farm II in Dayton. In most of those projects, RES is identified as the “balance of plant contractor,” while the owner is the local utility or public utility district.

For example, the Wild Horse Wind Farm in Ellensburg is owned by Puget Sound Energy. It has 149 turbines.

Representatives of RES Americas met with Thurston County officials in April as part of a pre-submission meeting, in which developers meet with land-use staff to learn about county rules for their projects.

The wind farm proposal falls into an “essential public facility” category, which requires a special use permit, senior planner Robert Smith said. That means there will be a public hearing before the county’s hearings examiner.

RES has yet to file anything official with Thurston County, but Smith expects a land-use application in the next 90 days, he said.