Washington Governor Approves Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project
A wind power project that will use up to 65 wind turbines to generate 130 megawatts of electricity was approved by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire on September 18. A key consideration was Washington voters' approval in 2006 of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
The project will be sited in the Kittitas Valley, about 100 miles east of Seattle and 12 miles west of Ellensburg. The turbines will be spread out over 6,000 acres of cattle grazing land, leased from local residents and the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Horizon Wind Energy will build, own, and operate the facility.
In June, Gregoire directed the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to reconsider the recommended setback for some of the turbines from the residences of nonparticipating landowners. EFSEC modified its conditions to require that each individual turbine be located to maximize distance from homes rather than maximize energy production.
Although the Kitittas County Board of Commissioners voted against the project, and may appeal the decision, Gregoire cited the message that Washington voters sent when they approved an RPS in 2006. The standard requires that 15 percent of all electricity used by major utilities come from renewable sources by 2020.
"It is the clear and compelling policy of the state to prefer new resources that have the least impact on our state's natural environment," Gregoire wrote in a September 18 letter to the EFSEC. "Our legislators and our citizens have recently articulated their strong preferences for renewable resources. Those policies are not in doubt …The benefits of this project are considerable and will accrue to the citizens across our state."
The benefits expected from the wind plant include:
- Eliminating approximately 230,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 1,690 tons of sulfur and nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere each year
- Creating about 125 full- and part-time jobs in Kittitas County and increasing total income to the county by almost $5 million during the construction period
- Creating 10 additional local jobs and increasing income to the county from salaries and operations expenses by more than $1.5 million annually
- Increasing property tax revenues by more than $1 million dollars annually — an increase of 5 percent — with the majority of the increase coming from property tax paid on the wind turbines.
Horizon Wind Energy states that the Kittitas Valley was chosen for the project site because of its proven wind resource, access to electric transmission lines, and compatibility with existing land uses.
To read more about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Washington, see:
- Washington news published on the EERE Web site.
- Brief project descriptions from the Washington Energy Office published in the EERE State Energy Program newsletter, Conservation Update.
- Washington publications listed in the EERE State Publications Database.