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Wind Power Sought Near Reardan

by Staff
The Spokesman Review, August 10, 2005

Company Hopes to Put 30 Turbines on Ridge

In the midst of harvest season, new ideas for how to use farmlands south of Reardan are being planted.

Winds rustling through crisp wheat in the hills may soon generate electricity, if a plan to install about 30 wind turbines is successful.

Richland-based Energy Northwest has proposed building about 30 windmills on a ridgeline stretching south of Reardan. The towers would likely be 200 feet tall and have 100-foot-long windmill blades and would likely produce 40 to 50 megawatts of electricity, said spokesman Brad Peck. That would be about twice the electrical output of the two dams in downtown Spokane around Riverfront Park.

The preliminary proposal is contingent on many factors, "and high on that list is whether the communities in that area want us to be there," he said. Construction could begin as early as spring 2006.

Energy Northwest selected the site because it receives an adequate amount of wind, Peck said. A steady wind is better than short gusts of heavy wind when generating power.

Electricity produced by the wind farm would go to customers in various public utility districts. Energy Northwest is a nonprofit consortium of 19 public utility districts. It already operates a 63 megawatt wind farm with 49 turbines at the Nine Canyon Wind Project near Kennewick as well as the Columbia Generation Station nuclear power plant.

Effects on the small wheat farming-based town of Reardan would be small, said city administrative assistant Bruce Johnson. The turbines would be located off city land, so there would be no tax revenue.

"The direct benefits would be minimal," Johnson said, noting citizens might value "supporting the idea of renewable energy."

Landowners on Magnison and Hanning buttes would earn money from leases for the property that is used to build the windmills.

Farmer Jim Mann owns land that might see the construction of wind turbines. He doesn't know much about the project but said he wouldn't mind windmills on his land "if I could make some money off of it."

Windmills are considered an environmentally friendly way to generate electricity, Peck said.

Of course, the success of wind power has a catch: The breeze isn't always blowing.

"It doesn't take a great deal of wind to make the turbines produce power," he said, "but they only produce power when the wind is blowing."

Plenty of hydroelectric power in the region would make up the difference in service, Peck said.

Provisions written into a national energy bill signed by President Bush this week allow Energy Northwest to sell clean energy bonds in which investors get their earnings in tax credits.

The new rules will keep the cost of financing low for the public power utility, Peck said.

The more power is produced by wind, the cheaper wind power will be, said Catherine Markson, of Avista Corp.

"We are always excited to see new wind developments," Markson said. "The more wind power projects there are, intuitively, the prices will go down."

Related Pages:
Energy Agency Seeks Plant for Coal-Based Gas by Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer,8/3/5

Wind Power Sought Near Reardan
The Spokesman Review August 10, 2005

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