Project developer Invenergy is seeking permission from local authorities to build a 502-MW wind farm in Oregon, welcome news for the US wind energy industry, which is about to lose key federal support as the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) is due to expire at year-end.
Chicago-based Invenergy’s Heppner Wind Energy LLC has filed a proposal with the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council to build the massive wind farm on a 61,000-acre (243-sq. km) site between the Columbia River and the Blue Mountains in eastern Morrow County. If it’s approved and built, this wind farm would more than double the electricity produced in the county, according to a report from the East Oregonian.
Wind Power, Green Economics and Wildlife Conservation
Heppner’s plan calls for as many as 310 1.5–3MW wind turbines between 394 and 533 feet tall to be erected on private property spanning the site area. Also included is building an overhead 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line that will connect the wind farm to a planned substation in Stanfield, according to an Oregon Dept. of Energy project description.
The 500-MW wind farm project would produce enough clean, renewable power for some 125,000 homes, while adding several million dollars a year to the county’s economy through payments to project landowners, employee salaries and property tax revenue. As many as 100 temporary construction and 30 new permanent jobs would be created, according to a Wind Watch report.
Morrow County has been a focal point for utility-scale wind power development in Oregon, which ranks fourth in the US in terms of installed wind power capacity. Three wind farms with a combined total rated capacity of 100 MW — Willow Creek, Echo Wind, and Threemile Canyon — added $650,000 to the county’s revenue from property taxes in 2011.
Built in 1977, a 600-MW Portland General Electric (PGE) coal-fired power plant in Boardman has long been, and continues to be, the county’s single-largest source of property tax revenue. The plant, for which PGE paid $3.5 million in property taxes in 2011, is due to shut down in 2020, however.
The new Morrow County wind farm is the first wind farm to be proposed on a big-game winter range. As such, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is concerned about the massive project’s effects on wildlife in the area, particularly its impact on raptors and big-game animals.
“We’re not saying that it’s bad, we’re saying that there are effects for what we do,” Heppner district biologist Steve Cherry was quoted as saying by Wind Watch. “Everything on the landscape affects wildlife.” The area is home to Golden eagles, ferruginous, and Swainson’s hawks, as well as other sensitive species, including migratory bat populations, he explained.
Photo Credit: Oregon Live