Friday, July 30, 2010

New Landscapes Defined by Wind

Just south of the Vantage Bridge on the Columbia River Will and I observed several trucks loaded with giant wind tubine blades.

Anyone making the I-90 drive across Washington State has noticed the landscape change taking place along Ryegrass Summit, the ridge line between Ellensburg and Vantage.

The area is aligned with a low gap in the Cascade Range that allows for passage of air between western Washington and eastern Washington. I suspect the arrangement of the ridges on the east side of the Kittitas Valley further accentuates the wind along Ryegrass Mountain. Over time I suspect there will be more wind development to the north and south along the ridge. Other wind projects are either under construction or in the planning stages in Kittitas County.

The big wind gap though is to the south where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Range. The ridges on the north side of the river as well as the ridges to the east between the Columbia River and Walla Walla are building wind turbines at a steady rate.

Turbine and para glider north of the Dalles

Turbines on Jump Off Joe south of Kennewick in Benton County

The State Line area in the Horse Heaven Hills west of Walla Walla

Lots more wind projects are in the works. A project is proposed north of White Salmon, Washington at Whistling Ridge just outside the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. The project has some opposition on scenery issues as no turbines would be allowed in the gorge itself. Just east of the Scenic Area at the Dalles turbines have already been installed (see above picture).

Another project is in the planning or early permit stage at Naff Ridge in Whitman County north of Walla Walla.

Permitting for the wind farms has been a mix of local and state regulations with many of the projects going through the Washington State Energy Facility Siting Evaluation Council (EFSEC) even though most are below the power thresehold that would require EFSEC review. Of power projects reviewed by EFSEC and approved, wind projects actually are getting built versus approved natural gas power plants that have not been built despite EFSEC approval.

The development of hydroelectric energy brought about profound changes to Washington's landscape. The development of wind energy is bring about large changes to our landscape as well - at least where the wind blows steady. 


Anonymous said...

The word "change" is far too benign to describe this mindless desecration of the landscape. I hope I live long enough to see some miracle energy source replace these monsters.

Dan McShane said...

The word "change" may be benign, but it is neutral. An argument can certainly be made that Washington State as well as other locales may not have a permitting system that adequately adresses scenic impacts. The exception may be the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. Whistling Ridge just outside the designated scenic area but still visible from parts of the gorge may be indicative of the scenic problem. The picture I took of Jump-Off-Joe south of Kennewick is telling. I have not looked into the permitting requirements in Benton County, but I suspect that there are few regarding wind energy. Whatcom County currenly has a moratorium on wind turbins over a certain size while the Council attempts to work out wind turbine siting criteria. I believe other communities have gone through similar processes.

Anonymous said...

This is the future.Be prepared for more and more.