Wind turbines make sense from a quality of life perspective, said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee during a news conference Tuesday in Richland.
He visited the Tri-Cities in part to learn more about clean energy research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University Tri-Cities.
But he wrapped up his nearly daylong visit discussing the split in community opinion on the proposed Horse Heaven Wind Farm. Inslee is expected to have the final say on whether the wind farm is approved, but no decision has been made at this time.
Wind farms in general have his support, he said.
Scout Clean Energy of Colorado is proposing a wind farm on a 112-square-mile clean energy production site, with wind turbines that would stretch along 24 miles of the Horse Heaven Hills from south of Finley to south of Benton City. The project also would include solar energy production and battery storage.
The developed area of the project would cover about 10 square miles.
The most likely option being considered would include 244 turbines standing almost 500 feet tall, with a second proposed option including 150 turbines standing up to 670 feet. That’s more than 60 feet taller than the Seattle Space Needle.
The project would bring jobs – most of them in construction – and provide electricity from clean energy, although the electricity would most likely be used in Western Washington or possibly California.
But some Tri-Cities residents are reluctant to have more of the desert vista of the Tri-Cities covered with turbines.
About 80% of comments at a Benton County town hall in Kennewick in March 2021 opposed the Horse Heaven Wind Farm.
Every energy source has some sort of impact and for wind, it is visual, Inslee said on Tuesday.
And in Washington state, the Tri-Cities area is among those places with the “incredible resource” of windy weather for clean energy, he said.
The visual impact is offset by not having children choking with asthma in the summer, he said.
“For those who don’t want to breathe the smoke that we breathed the last few summers, wind energy is the way to reduce the threats of forest fires because it reduces carbon pollution, which can fight climate change, which is causing these forest fires,” he said.
In the past year 250,000 salmon died in the Columbia River because the water was too hot, he said.
“So if you like to fish and you like to breathe and you like to have a few trees, wind turbines make sense,” he said.
They also create jobs.
“People have good family wage jobs in this industry,” he said.
When he spots wind turbines, he sees a promise that Washington children will see forests that have not burned, rivers that don’t flood and salmon that have not been decimated by warm water or ocean acidification, he said.
An expanded environmental study of the Horse Heaven Wind Farm is expected to be released for public comment this spring.
Then the Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is expected to make a recommendation on whether the project should be approved for a final decision, which will be made by the governor.
Clean energy research
Inslee discussed his support for wind turbines at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland after naming Birgitte Ahring, a professor at The Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at WSU Tri-Cities, the Washingtonian of the Day for her leadership in clean energy biofuels research.
Earlier in the afternoon he had visited the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for an update on its clean energy research.
“I had a supremely inspiring day listening to (information on) the clean energy economy growing in the Tri-Cities here at the WSU campus and at the lab,” he said.
The Tri-Cities is leading the world with PNNL’s research to develop batteries that will provide longer range for electric cars, Inslee said.
At WSU Tri-Cities some of the most cutting edge biofuels research is being done, he said.
The research at both institutions holds promise for the the development of new industries, he said.
“There is some real gold here in these hills and it is in clean energy technology,” he said.
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