Serving Franklin County, WA

Winds of change

Proposed wind turbines stirring up area concerns

ROSALIA – The winds of change are blowing across the region, with multiple developers pushing for prime agricultural land to become home to wind turbines.

And the push for the rural skyscrapers, which can rise to a height of more than 500 feet above the ground - the blades can reach to nearly 700 feet - has area residents, farmers and local leaders concerned the winds are blowing the wrong kind of change into their communities.

Around the region, multiple companies are approaching farmers with lease agreements to erect wind turbines in the Pullman, Palouse, Colfax, Oakesdale, Rosalia, Fairfield, Davenport, Harrington, Edwall and Reardan areas, among others.

Some of those companies are Vestas (doing business as Steelhead America) and Triple Oak Power, both of Portland, Ore.; Tenaska of Omaha, Neb.; and Cordelio Power of Toronto, Canada. Triple Oak is a subsidiary of Energy Capital Partners of Summit, N.J.

And there are others, with more subsidiaries targeting Eastern Washington.

The debate over turbines is pitting neighbors against each other.

Those supporting wind turbine agreements see lucrative leases that would help farmers remain in business amid ever-increasing costs. Some farmers in negotiations with one or more of the companies have told Free Press reporters that they've been offered upwards of $30,000 annually per wind turbine lease.

Opponents of the turbines accuse potential lessors of selling out, or at the very least selling off the region's aesthetic beauty.

While companies' representatives are meeting with area farmers, communities are coming together to oppose the turbines. Community meetings have been called in Davenport, Reardan, Spangle, Fairfield and Harrington. Meetings are also being planned for the Pullman, Palouse, Colfax and other parts of Whitman County.

Despite meetings taking place in Fairfield and Spangle, Spokane County planning officials deny turbines are coming to those areas. Currently, there no imminent plans for erecting wind turbines, officials said.

Neither Avista nor Inland Power have any plans in the works, either.

"There aren't any current plans for development of a wind project in Spokane County with Avista," Avista spokesman Jared Webley said Tuesday, March 5.

"At Inland Power, we aren't planning to generate power ourselves, we simply procure it," Inland spokesman Andy Barth said.

In addition, "There's significant opposition from residents who are concerned about the visual impact," he said.

Significant opposition, indeed.

Despite multiple wind turbines already in place and operating in the Oakesdale area of Whitman County, farmers and residents are saying no more. Social media groups have popped up, opposing turbines.

"There are a bunch of farmers that are totally against wind turbines in the area," Dan Lenssen said on social media. He's an administrator for the Stop Kamiak Butte Industrial Wind Project. "They have not signed up and will not. They are actually pissed off at their neighbors for signing up." Kamiak Butte is a national natural landmark rising 3,461 feet above sea level, the second highest point in Whitman County.

The Save the Lincoln County Skyline-Industrial Wind Truths and Education group has also grown to life in the Davenport-Reardan-Harrington areas. Triple Oaks boasts that it has already amassed 17,000 in leases in Lincoln County.

Rural residents of Whitman, Lincoln and Spokane Counties aren't the only ones in Eastern Washington pushing back against wind turbine permitting and construction.

Residents of Benton County have openly opposed a large industrial wind turbine development atop Horse Heaven Hills Windfarm.

Scout Clean Energy of Boulder, Colo., is the developer behind that project, which has drawn opposition from residents, local officials and even the Yakama Nation, whose reservation is miles away.

The tribe filed for a protection order to prevent the development because it would harm the ferruginous hawk population.

Residents of Kennewick, Richland, Pasco and other Tri-City area communities are opposing the project because it would destroy the aesthetic beauty of the Horse Heaven Hills skyline.

For its part, Scout is appealing to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council for approval to proceed. The council was formed when Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1216 into law on May 3, 2023.

The governor requested the bill as an end run around local opposition to such developments, as local opposition stood in the way of his push to require all energy production in the state to come from renewable sources by 2050. Tri-City leaders have called the council government overreach.

— Drew Lawson and Roger Harnack contributed to this report.


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