BENTON COUNTY, Wash. – Ever since the Horse Heaven Wind Farm was first proposed, it’s been a point of contention amongst Benton County community members. Opposition intensified when the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce conducted a public opinion survey that saw 78 percent of 2,200 respondents express concerns about the project.
As a result of their findings, the Chamber of Commerce took an official stance against Horse Heaven Wind Farm and sent a letter detailing their concerns to Governor Jay Inslee and the State of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). In it, they listed the following as the top five reasons for concern based on their polling:
- Viewshed – Destruction of a wide swath of the natural land and view scape
- Decommissioning and Turbine Disposal – Waste disposal problems
- Tourism – Obstructed views are detrimental to tourism
- Birds and Wildlife – Obstructed migratory bird path and wildlife damage
- Flashing Lights – Light pollution via red, flashing, aviation warning lights at night
This wouldn’t be the first time that community members expressed their concerns either. Hundreds of people attended a virtual information session on March 30, in which representatives of Scout Clean Energy (the team behind the wind farm) listened to community feedback.
As a result of such backlash, Scout rescinded its request for an expedited review process. However, the team isn’t ready to scrap the project as their own research conflicts with that gathered by the Chamber of Commerce. Dave Kobus, who is the Lead Project Manager for the proposal, issued the following statement:
“We were surprised and disappointed to learn that the Chamber of Commerce has taken a position against our project. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation regarding our project and wind energy in general which can lead to concern and confusion about what is being proposed, and how the local community might be impacted, Kobus said.”
Given the group’s stated mission of promoting regional prosperity and being a catalyst for business growth, we hope that the Chamber will continue a dialogue with Scout to learn more about the economic benefits this project will bring to the region,” added Kobus.
The Horse Heaven facility will combine wind, solar and battery energy storage and at full build-out, will bring up to 1,150 megawatts of clean energy to the region – while also generating local tax revenue, employment opportunities and economic infusion for regional businesses.
The project represents a total capital investment of more than $1.7 billion to the Tri-Cities region. Construction and operations will create jobs and increase demand for local businesses that provide construction materials, equipment and supplies, as well as lodging, food and fuel.
Kobus also provided statistics from polls conducted by EMC Research, a national research firm specializing in polling, focus groups, and public opinion research. He says that Kobus conducted a live telephone survey of 500 registered voters in Benton County that is meant to reflect the opinion of the general public.
The results of those surveys showed a very different reaction to the Horse Heaven Wind Farm than displayed by the poll run by the Chamber of Commerce. According to metrics from the EMC poll, 54% of Benton County voters expressed some level of support for the project during initial polls. They returned to voters after providing further information about the project and saw support increase to 61% compared with 34% opposition and 4% of voters who didn’t provide an opinion on the topic.
Additionally, EMC’s research showed that 80% of voters think that government support for renewable energy is important and that 70% think that wind energy is important. The Horse Heaven Wind Farm would place up to 244 turbines, two solar arrays and battery storage systems across the Horse Heaven Hills in Benton County.
Where do you stand on the Horse Heaven Wind Farm?