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Wind farm project draws criticism from some residents

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – A renewable energy project that would generate enough power for 275,000 homes on average per year is drawing criticism from some neighbors.

The State of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) is currently reviewing the Horse Heaven Wind Farm project, presented by Scout Clean Energy.

The proposal includes up to 244 wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage that would span across 24 miles of the ridgeline of the Horse Heaven Hills south of Kennewick to Benton City.

Javon Smith with Scout Clean Energy said in terms of energy resources the northwest was capacity rich for many years, but now that’s not the case. She said this is largely due to an increase in population leading to more demand on the system, climate change causing a shift in the production of hydropower plants and fossil fuels being phased out.

“Our project is just a piece of the puzzle, but we’re no longer siting on that big surplus of capacity that I think a lot of people just presume we’ll be okay because we were 10, 20 years ago,” Smith said.

Smith said this project would generate substantial property tax revenue to Benton County, create more than 1,000 construction jobs and about 50 permanent ones once the site is working.

“Our experience is the more people know about the proposal, the more comfortable they are,” Smith said. “The more likely they are to support the project. So getting armed with the facts people will understand that the development of wind energy is safe and it is also beneficial for local communities.”

Some residents are concerned.

Resident Mike Minelli has lived in the Tri-Cities for more than 30 years.

He has a house with a view of the hills and said these 50 foot turbines will cause “visual pollution.”

“We’re trying to correct one problem with another,” Minelli said.

Minelli said he’s all for helping the environment, but doesn’t think the wind farm is the solution.

“I think the major point is that the skyline of the Tri-Cities is going to be changed for a lifetime unless we do something about it,” Minelli said. “In everybody’s mind here in the Tri-Cities, once we see those towers going up it’s going to be too late.”

Minelli said you can find more information on their stance here.

Scout Clean Energy said part of the review process includes a public comment session that will be taken into consideration by the site evaluation council.

More information on how to participate in this session will be released soon.

Scout Clean Energy has been working on this project since 2016. Smith said the team’s been studying the economic and wildlife impact and conducting public response surveys.

More information on their economic impact study can be found here and the results of their survey of registered voters can be found here.