March 22, 2018

EFSEC hears update on Desert Claim wind project

By Karl Holappa, Staff Writer | Daily Record | March 21, 2018 |

The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council heard a update on a proposal to reduce the size of the Desert Claim wind project near Ellensburg on Tuesday, but didn’t take action.

The project was originally approved for site certification in 2010 to develop 95 wind turbines on approximately 5,200 acres, with the capability to produce 190 megawatts of electricity. In February, Desert Claim Wind Power LLC submitted an amendment request to EFSEC to build a smaller project that would use 31 turbines on 4,400 acres, capable of generating 100 megawatts of electricity.

In summarizing the details for the requested amendment, EFSEC staff member Jim LaSpina said the amendment states no turbines will be placed east of Reecer Creek, avoiding environmentally sensitive areas. In addition, a parcel has been added to the western border of the project.

The project is planned about eight miles northwest of the city of Ellensburg, north of Smithson Road.

The amendment calls for an increase in the minimum distance from turbines to residences from 1,687 feet to no less than 2,500 feet. Also, a reduction of habitat and vegetation disturbances, with disturbance during the construction phase being reduced by 30 percent and permanent impacts being reduced by 40 percent. A 36 to 48 percent reduction in turbine rotor sweep area is proposed due to the reduced number of turbines.

Rick Miller, Desert Claim Project manager, answered questions via telephone.

EFSEC council member Dennis Moss asked Miller whether the amended project would result in less turbine density. Miller responded that was correct.

“Is the intent there something that is responsive in some way to the local community’s interest, or is there some other reason for changing the density?” Moss asked.

“I would characterize it more of a function of changes in turbine technology over time; the individual turbines have a greater generating capacity,” Miller responded. “We’ve just sized the project down to (a maximum of) 100 megawatts to be more consistent with the size of project that we’re seeing interest for from the off-state market.”

Council member Ian Elliot, who represents Kittitas County on the panel, asked Miller whether the new turbine technology could reduce bird deaths. Miller said he wasn’t prepared to answer that question, but would be prepared to at the next meeting.

“We look forward to making our full presentation the whole council and the public on (April) 11th,” Miller said.

EFSEC will have a public comment hearing on the project on the evening of April 11 at the armory. Details on the exact time of the hearing will be finalized within the next week.

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