Why people in eastern Washington don't like wind farms.....

Vladimir Steblina

Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working
This article is from the Spokane Spokesman-Review form 2011. I have bolded the parts that people have issues with over here. Good article though a bit dated.

BTW....ownership of the Industrial Wind Areas will be passing back to landowners in the next few years in some cases. The government subsidies are running out, so the utilities are walking away from the areas.

I don't understand why we are destroying the endangered shrub-steppe habitat in Washington state by providing tax money to foreign companies to do so!!

ELLENSBURG – Gusty winds sweep through Central Washington’s Kittitas County, scattering tumbleweeds and spinning the blades of 149 turbines on Whisky Dick Mountain.    The westerly wind is a gift of geography. Moist air from the Pacific Ocean picks up speed as it’s forced through Snoqualmie Pass. As it hurtles down the eastern slopes of the Cascades, it rushes through Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse wind project.
Since 2006, the Seattle-based utility has harnessed the wind, converting its force into kilowatts of electricity. When wind speeds hit 9 mph, the turbines start producing power for the utility’s customers in the Puget Sound region.
Wind farm development has been on a fast track across the Northwest, with at least 40 farms in operation and several more under construction. Anyone who’s driven to Seattle or Portland has seen the evidence. The towers – as high as 22-story buildings – dominate wind-swept corridors east of the Cascades.
But the boom in Northwest wind farm development may have hit its peak.
About half of the wind power produced here is sold to California utilities, which are under state mandates to get 33 percent of their energy from new, carbon-free sources by 2020. Earlier this year, however, California passed laws requiring utilities to purchase more of their renewable energy from in-state sources.
The new legislation won’t affect existing purchase agreements for Northwest wind, but it’s likely to put a damper on new developments.
EnXco, a multinational French company with offices in Portland and San Diego, previously built two wind farms in Eastern Washington, but it’s holding off on two other Washington projects.
“It’s probably not a surprise that the projects we’re building right now are in California,” said Virinder Singh, enXco’s director of regulatory and legislative affairs. “We have to go where the market is.”
The rules for changes to California’s renewable energy requirements are still being written, and the impact isn’t entirely clear yet. However, “California is clearly signaling that it wants more of its renewable energy to come from California,” Singh said.
In the Northwest, wind development went through “a phenomenal trajectory,” said Tom Karier, Eastern Washington representative on the four-state Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
Since the late 1990s, the Northwest has installed nearly 6,000 megawatts of wind energy. That’s enough to supply 1  1/2 cities the size of Seattle, based on the wind blowing 30 percent of the time, which is typical for wind farms here. About $12 billion worth of investment has poured into wind farm development, aided by generous federal tax and production credits.
But Karier doubts that pace can be sustained. Future demand for wind development will rely less on California and more on Northwest needs, he predicted.
Utilities in Washington, Oregon and Montana face their own state mandates to get more of their power from carbon-free sources. In Washington, a voter-approved initiative requires large utilities to ramp up the amount of electricity from new renewable resources, hitting 15 percent by 2020. Wind has been utilities’ carbon-free resource of choice, though solar, biomass and geothermal projects also count toward the goal.
Karier said he expects wind development in the Northwest to continue, “but at a much slower rate.”
A cost-effective alternative
Puget Sound Energy moved aggressively on wind development. The utility, which serves 1.1 million customers in Western Washington, has built three wind farms east of the Cascades. When its Lower Snake River wind farm comes online next spring, Puget Sound Energy will be able to supply more than 10 percent of its customers’ average electric load from wind.
Wind is really the only cost-effective way to meet Washington’s renewable energy requirements as they’re currently written, said Roger Garratt, the utility’s director of emerging technologies and resource acquisition. Solar energy isn’t as viable in the Northwest as it is in sunny states. Other technologies, such as biomass and geothermal plants, face challenges to large-scale production, he said.
“If you have a big number to hit, wind is a way to hit that number fairly economically,” Garratt said.
The utility expects to add 1 million new residential accounts by 2020, primarily in suburban areas around Seattle. Puget Sound Energy needed to add generating capacity anyway, and on a cost basis wind compares favorably with natural-gas fired turbines, said Roger Thompson, the utility’s spokesman.
Garratt said utilities look at costs in several ways. Wind energy costs about twice as much as the current wholesale cost of electricity in the Northwest – about 6 cents per kilowatt hour compared with 3 cents. But running a wind farm, he said, is like driving a Toyota Prius: While the cost of building a wind farm is high, the marginal cost of generating electricity is low because the fuel is free.
That’s an advantage wind shares with hydropower, Garratt said. It helps the utility’s wind farms compete costwise with electricity from natural-gas-fired turbines and an existing Montana coal plant.
‘Controversial on a lot of levels’
Wind farms often receive a warm reception in rural counties. The construction phase typically brings 200 to 300 workers to town. Each tower and turbine represents a capital outlay of about $3 million, which translates into thousands of dollars for local taxing districts.
Klickitat County in the Columbia River Gorge actively courted wind farms, viewing them as compatible with the ranches and wheat farms in the thinly populated, economically depressed county. More than 600 wind turbines have been erected in seven large developments, including 500-megawatt Windy Point/Windy Flats, which stretches for 26 miles along the Columbia River’s ridgeline.
Wind developments have paid $13 million in local taxes over the past five years. The tax money has been used to buy new firetrucks and ambulances and even build a new school and fire hall, said Mike Canon, the county’s economic development director.
“Klickitat County is fortunate that we got as many wind farms built as we did,” he said, adding that some projects are on hold, given the uncertainty of future demand from California utilities.
But the welcome isn’t universal. In central Washington’s Kittitas County, home to three wind farms with a fourth in the planning stage, “they are controversial on a lot of levels,” said Paul Jewell, a county commissioner.
Many of the county’s 41,000 residents are either urban refugees from the Seattle area or longtime residents who prize the open vistas. They view the massive towers, topped by red blinking lights, as a blight on the landscape, Jewell said. Others oppose the turbines from an ideological basis, saying they don’t support federal subsidies for wind development.

Back in 2007, Kittitas County zoned 500 square miles of its sparsely populated eastern side as a wind-farm resource overlay zone. Two wind projects proposed outside the zone faced strong opposition. They were overturned at the local level, but the developers appealed to Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which approved both projects.
The state’s intervention fueled local resentment. Project opponents felt they were getting stuck with the negative impacts of wind farms benefiting distant utility customers, Jewell said.

He’d like large wind projects to pay some type of local impact fee. There’s no question that wind farms benefit Kittitas County’s coffers, Jewell said. Each turbine represents about $4,500 in yearly taxes to the county’s general and road funds.
But after the flush of construction jobs ends, wind farms employ relatively few permanent workers, he said. Fewer than 50 people are needed to run Kittitas County’s three operating wind farms.
“A factory would take up a lot less land and bring 20 to 30 times the job growth,” Jewell said.

More turbines coming
The Wild Horse project escaped controversy. Built on an old ranch in eastern Kittitas County, the 12,000-acre wind farm is sandwiched between large blocks of public land, more than a mile from the nearest house.
“It wasn’t in the view shed that many people valued,” said Brian Lenz, Puget Sound Energy’s government and community relations manager in Ellensburg.
To further community acceptance, Puget Sound Energy allowed traditional uses of the land to continue. The 4,500 elk in the Clockum herd graze on part of the wind farm, and hunters drive through the property to reach state lands open to hunting. Members of the Yakama and Wanapum tribes dig bitterroots at the site each spring. As part of environmental mitigation, the wind turbines were situated to avoid sage grouse habitat.
Each year, thousands of people visit Puget Sound’s Renewable Energy Center, located on site. They can get public tours of the Wild Horse facility, learning that the 129-foot-long turbine blades were made in Denmark and other operational trivia.
The turbine heads swivel 360 degrees, with a computerized system that orients the blades to the best winds.
At wind speeds between 28 and 56 miles per hour, the turbines run at full capacity. They shut down when winds exceed 56 mph because strong gusts can bend blades and damage equipment.
Puget Sound Energy isn’t done building wind farms. To provide its growing customer base with the renewable energy required under Washington’s law, the utility expects to nearly double its wind generating capacity over the next 20 years. That means more turbines on the landscape – funky and futuristic to some but stark and industrial to others.
To Lenz, there’s a whimsical aspect to the giant structures and spinning blades.
“The synchronicity is what I look for,” he said. “We had one lady from Walla Walla call them our Rockettes.”
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Interesting. There's an installation with four turbines on the ridge behind Grayland. I can see them from my back porch this time of year, through the bare Alder branches. At night, I can see the red blinking lights. Those four huge white towers and their blades don't bother me. I can see them from the beach, if there aren't any trees in the way. The synchronization of the blades doesn't always look choreographed, though. We can't think of them as dancers.
Sometimes not all of them are spinning or in service.

I just went outside to look for the lights, but some evergreens must be growing and are mostly blocking them. I had to wait for the treetops to move in the breeze (not too bad, now). It howled here this afternoon. A 65mph gust was recorded near Westport. I forgot to check to see if the turbine blades were still turning today.

Last couple of days, I was staying home nursing a sand-blasted right eye...swollen lids, tear ducts going full bore...I got a nasty blast of fine Grayland beach sand stinging my face on Tues afternoon, as I bent over to pick up a piece of polypro rope from the high tide line. I'd been cleaning plastic off the beach. Was only blowing 15-25mph from the S. No good deed goes unpunished, though, and I must have let my guard down.
I thought I'd cleaned the sand out, but it still felt raspy on Wedn. But it was really bad yesterday morning when I awoke and felt as though The Sandman had been partying in my right eye socket all night. I was experiencing double vision, and had to close it so that I could see straight out of my left eye. There were still a few grains of sand irritating my R eye socket that I eventually washed out.
Much better now, though.
 
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Timbow

Active Member
Here’s a question that I’ve had for a while now concerning wind energy. Wind is weather and influences local climate and I’m sure a bunch of other environmental niches. So, while a few wind farms probably have very little effect in the overall scheme of things, what happens as more and more wind farms are built and began to harvest all of the wind in areas that have been experiencing high winds for millions of years? Just a thought to consider
 
Here’s a question that I’ve had for a while now concerning wind energy. Wind is weather and influences local climate and I’m sure a bunch of other environmental niches. So, while a few wind farms probably have very little effect in the overall scheme of things, what happens as more and more wind farms are built and began to harvest all of the wind in areas that have been experiencing high winds for millions of years? Just a thought to consider

A whole lot less than dams disrupt the flow of water in rivers!
 

Timbow

Active Member
A whole lot less than dams disrupt the flow of water in rivers!

I would argue that just about everyone has a biased opinion in the matter. To you, dams are evil. My guess is your comment is based on the fact that you have a vested interest in that dams are fish killers and fish is something you care about and enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what about others that have different interests than you? Windmills kill a lot of birds and bats, so I’m sure there are bird lovers out there that would prefer dams to windmills as they have less interest in fish.

The bottom line is that we need energy and there is no perfect solution that is going to minimize environmental issues at every level and be cost effective.
 

PezVela

Active Member
Interesting stuff... I read an article not long ago that mention 20-30% (or more) of the wind generators in California are broken, and because they are no longer subsidized, they won't fix them. Sounds like another grab the money and run deal...

Just looked for that article and can't find it... but I gather it's all the old, inefficient generators. Personally... I like the cold fusion power...:eek:
 
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I would argue that just about everyone has a biased opinion in the matter. To you, dams are evil. My guess is your comment is based on the fact that you have a vested interest in that dams are fish killers and fish is something you care about and enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what about others that have different interests than you? Windmills kill a lot of birds and bats, so I’m sure there are bird lovers out there that would prefer dams to windmills as they have less interest in fish.

The bottom line is that we need energy and there is no perfect solution that is going to minimize environmental issues at every level and be cost effective.

I don’t have a vested interest in either dams or windmills. I think both are essential to the future sustainability of our energy grid. I offered that statement merely as an observation on the impact of dams vs. windmills. Windmills produce a vortex or eddy in the airstream, if you will, that would be analogous to a boulder or log in a river. Certainly not equivalent to a dam. That being said, I am on the side of removing the Snake River dams. Weighing the pros and cons, including many of the arguments already hashed out in this thread, I think that is the best way forward.
Dick
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
Thanks for posting Vlad!

I haven't thought of the wind farms as an ugly blight on the landscape. But then as a native westsider I always thought that the east side desert was ugly to begin with. I mellowed with time and try to appreciate every environment for what it is, but I'll probably never appreciate sage covered mountains as much as I do forested ones.

It seems like the principle eastside resentment stems from resource development on the east side of the state being exported to the market on the west side. That could apply both to wind and hydro development. I think this is odd because eastern WA doesn't seem to object to growing apples, other fruit and vegetables and exporting them to consumers on the west side. The concepts are nearly identical. Would the eastsiders prefer to keep the desert and not have orchards, farms, and ranches producing products for export? Why is it different for energy than for grain, fruit, and vegetables?
 

Vladimir Steblina

Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working
Thanks for posting Vlad!

I haven't thought of the wind farms as an ugly blight on the landscape. But then as a native westsider I always thought that the east side desert was ugly to begin with. I mellowed with time and try to appreciate every environment for what it is, but I'll probably never appreciate sage covered mountains as much as I do forested ones.

It seems like the principle eastside resentment stems from resource development on the east side of the state being exported to the market on the west side. That could apply both to wind and hydro development. I think this is odd because eastern WA doesn't seem to object to growing apples, other fruit and vegetables and exporting them to consumers on the west side. The concepts are nearly identical. Would the eastsiders prefer to keep the desert and not have orchards, farms, and ranches producing products for export? Why is it different for energy than for grain, fruit, and vegetables?

First...for Timbow. Here is a study on local warming related to wind turbines. Not sure how valid the study is, but it is interesting.

BTW...I do believe that the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project has changed the local weather in the basin. FULL DISCLOSURE....I talk to several meterologists with the National Weather Service and they DON'T agree with me. I would not worry about turbines changing local climate.

https://www.businessinsider.com/climate-effects-of-wind-power-cause-local-warming-2018-10

Second...for PezVela. Yep, about 20-30% of the turbines in California are broken and no longer functioning.

Now for Salmo-g....I find green and trees rather boring. Give me sage and sun any day. I cannot understand somebody liking trees over sage!! The real issue with sage and wind turbines is that shrub-steppe habitat is the most endangered ecosystem in Washington state according to the Nature Conservancy. And we have destroyed over 200,000 acres of it with Industrial Wind Areas. That is the same acreage in Mt. Rainier National Park.

The real problem from eastern Washington's perspective. Industrial Wind Areas create very few jobs and destroy a increasingly rare ecosystem in Washington. Not only don't they make economic sense, but the mandatory purchase of electricity by BPA means the public utilities in eastern Washington must PAY to get rid of their electricity in spring, while foreign owned corporations get preferential treatment from the Federal government!!! Is that a good idea???

Maybe the concept is the same between the orchards, farms, and ranches and Industrial Wind Areas,

But if the orchards, farms and ranches were owned by foreign corporations, provided few jobs, cost eastern Washington residents money, had health effects on residents living nearby, and routinely the Governor over rode local zoning and by county residents.....I suspect you would get the same response from eastern Washington residents.
 
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Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
Don't ever drive through the Midwest and going east. They are all over the place in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. There are so many they look like tree farms.
 

Driftless Dan

Driftless Dan
WFF Supporter
A couple of things that the article doesn't mention:

-The farmers on whose land the turbines are leased from LOVE them - they get paid far more for that quarter acre used to hold each wind turbine than if they put grain on them. I met a farmer in Idaho who, upon receiving his funds, went on a round-the-world trip with his family. He had 15 WTG's on it.

-those California turbines that are non-functional? They're all over 25 years old. Their output is less than 10% of a modern WTG.

-Economic sense does not necessarily depend on jobs. Jobs in the wind industry are great, don't get me wrong. Many of the jobs are not local, sorry. They are monitored electronically remotely. Repair people are not located right there, but usually work over a large territory. Lots of jobs are temporary - hundreds of folks help at the ports to offload the WTG's, truckers move them to the wind farms, and hundreds more build the wind farms. Few local jobs remain, but that doesn't mean the industry doesn't generate jobs.

-Absolutely true, wind power is more expensive than coal, certainly more than dams. Most of the anti wind propaganda put out by those paid by the oil industry, please don't believe me but research it.

Wind energy is not primarily created for economic savings, but because it is less environmentally damaging than dams or coal.
 

2kayaker

Active Member
Here’s a question that I’ve had for a while now concerning wind energy. Wind is weather and influences local climate and I’m sure a bunch of other environmental niches. So, while a few wind farms probably have very little effect in the overall scheme of things, what happens as more and more wind farms are built and began to harvest all of the wind in areas that have been experiencing high winds for millions of years? Just a thought to consider
Hahaha -- just reverse the leads.
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
"Harvesting the wind," is an interesting concept.
The ridges and hills above the town of Naselle, WA on the lower Columbia R would be an excellent location for wind turbines. However, Seattle Audubon is dead set against that area being used for wind power because they deem it to be suitable habitat for the Marbled Murrelet. No Marbled Murrelet are known to actually nest or roost there, but the Seattle chapter of Audubon says that its good habitat in case these birds choose to do so sometime in the future. Uhuh.
Do you think we could get those guys to speak into mini wind turbines, so that maybe we can harvest some of their wind?:D
 

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