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Horse Heaven Wind Farm proposal brings opposition from local group

KENNEWICK, Wash. – The potential wind farm, south of Tri-Cities, has brought up opposition from a group in the area, Save Our Ridges.

“It’s not wanted and it’s not needed,” Barry Bush with Save Our Ridges said.

The group has set up a website, petition and Go Fund Me to advocate against the 70,000 acre renewable energy project.

Horse Heaven Wind Farm could include up to 244 wind turbines, photovoltaic solar arrays and battery storage facilities to store the energy produced. The project, created by Scout Clean Energy, has not yet been permitted in Washington.

“I’m not aware of any of the utilities that are in need of even one kilowatt of this energy, so it’s not gonna stay here,” Bush said.

One of the group concerns is that the energy will go solely out of state.

Javon Smith with Scout Clean Energy said since the project hasn’t been permitted, there’s no telling exactly which local entity would source the power.

Likely, it would be a combination of local and out of state entities. Our area does share power as a part of the Western Grid, in case another state is in need of extra power.

“It’s very difficult to sell power that hasn’t been permitted. Most likely the electrons that we generate will be delivered to businesses and homes in the region,” Smith explained.

The project has been in the works for a while. This includes a 526-page application to the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. Smith said they’ve hired third-party contractors to conduct studies like the environmental report, to ensure there will not be a significant impact to birds or other wildlife.

Bush said he understands the need for clean energy sources, but Horse Heaven Hills is not the place.

“For them the amount of money that’s generated is transformational, Benton County is – we’re not desperate for the money,” he said.

Yet, Smith said throughout the project’s life, it would generate $260 million for Benton County from taxes; a large portion would go to local schools.

Still, Bush and his group are concerned that SCE bypassed a county application process and went straight to EFSEC.

“They skipped us, which basically alienated us. We’re a pretty big county, Benton County, we can handle the going through a permit process,” Bush claimed.

“What we were hearing is that a project of this scope this scale, would put a burden on staff that would be costing the county to process and we really want to be a positive partner,” Smith said county officials were not ready to take on the lengthy project application.

Save Our Ridges has also shared that the wind farm would prevent future development, south of Tri-Cities, however, a majority of the land Scout Clean Energy would build on isn’t public.

“The project area is private, dry land, wheat farm, primarily there’s a small parcel that is DNR land,” Smith explained.

The project, if permitted, would provide 1,000 jobs during construction which would lessen when it’s completed. Still, Bush and his team said the jobs aren’t needed and the project should go elsewhere.

EFSEC will be holding a public hearing on March 30, you can register to comment or watch here.