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'The Gold Rush is Happening Right Now'

by Samantha Bates
The East Oregonian, October 30, 2008

Wind workshop highlights Oregon's quarry of energy

Wind towers lay ready for erection. PENDLETON - Area farmers and ranchers got a rundown Tuesday of how to deal with what could be called Oregon's new gold rush: The land grab for wind power as Oregon and the nation aim for higher and higher green energy standards.

Christian Sarason, project manager with 3 TIER North America, a wind assessment firm, said the rush is on.

"The gold rush is happening right now," he said. "It's the gold rush and there's going to be continuing pressure to prospect all over the place."

Tuesday's day-long workshop in Pendleton swept across a range of information so landowners can navigate these winds - from the basics of wind to setting up small turbines to working with large industrial wind companies and understanding their jargon.

The Pendleton workshop was full, with more than 30 people attending. Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development, or SEED, sponsored the workshop, as it did two previous workshops in Hood River and Moro, and another Wednesday in Baker City.

Eastern Oregon has become a hot spot for wind, not because the best winds are here, but because there's fair wind and, more importantly, power lines to carry the energy to the Northwest and other parts of the country, Sarason said. The wind blows more in the Midwest, but it doesn't have the infrastructure. The Northwest does because it's been harvesting energy from dams. Also, the dams provide a backup for when the wind isn't blowing.

For a small wind turbine on a property, the wind needs to blow at an annual speed of 10 miles per hour, said Erin Johnston, who represented the Energy Trust of Oregon.

"It means your hat is blowing off more days out of the year," she said, or the car door is hard to open or the trees show flagging, a condition where the branches tend to grow only in the prevailing wind direction.

For an industrial wind project, the speeds have to be at least 12-15 mph annually.

When it comes to wind towers, Johnston and others said the bigger the turbine blades, the more energy the towers produce. But also, the bigger the blades the more wind it takes to get them going.

Most small turbines are about 100 feet tall and produce 10 kilowatts, while industrial turbines are as tall as 400 feet and produce between one and three megawatts, Johnston said.

No matter the size of the wind project, several of the presenters, including Jennifer Grove with Northwest SEED, advised people to talk to their neighbors. If they're putting up a small turbine, the view and the noise may affect both the landowners and the neighbors.

When dealing with big wind companies, before signing a contract, people should speak to their neighbors to make sure everyone's on the same page, said Ormand Hilderbrand, who's working on a community wind farm in Wasco. The agreements with the companies are usually confidential, Hilderbrand agreed, but only after a person signs them. Before signing, he advised talking to neighbors so everyone can agree on a contract with the companies.

"They don't like it," he said, "but what choice do they have? Until you've signed you have all the advantage."

And Grove said landowners need to talk to an attorney.

"Always seek legal advice," she said.

Each company will have its own contracts and its own stipulations, she said, and a legal consultant can wade through all of that.

Another resource Grove recommended is a report available online called the "Farmer's Guide to Wind Energy" (available at It covers much of the basics, language and know-how land owners can use in setting up their own wind turbines and/or negotiating with companies.

Samantha Bates
'The Gold Rush is Happening Right Now'
The East Oregonian, October 30, 2008

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