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Bickleton projects to harness wind energy

BICKLETON - The sheer numbers are staggering - 133 wind turbines, 10,605 acres and enough electricity to power 250,000 homes.

And that's just one of two wind farms proposed for the Bickleton area.

The figures above are for the White Creek Wind Energy Project, which will soon begin construction 14 miles south of Bickleton.

The project has received approval from Klickitat County and, according to county Planning Director Curt Dreyer, is expected to complete construction next summer.

White Creek's wind turbines will occupy 64 of the 10,6055 acres set aside for the project. Another 117 acres will be temporarily impacted during construction.

The project applicant is Last Mile Electric Cooperative of Goldendale, located in the Klickitat Public Utility District.

During construction and operation of the White Creek site, Klickitat County is requiring additional measures to mitigate for possible wind erosion. Further, watering measures will be required to control dust created by construction of the wind turbines.

The county will also require the project to minimize White Creek's impacts to wildlife in the area, such as birds, black-tailed deer, coyote and red foxes.

Dreyer said farmers in the area didn't oppose the wind farm site though "a local environmental group wanted conditions."

Intended to capture winds in the Bickleton area, the turbines will likely be situated in an elevated area. The wind turbines will be coated with a non-reflective gray or off-white paint to deflect sunlight.

Construction will require about 100 workers and it's estimated 10 to 15 permanent employees will be hired to operate the White Creek site.

The second wind farm proposed, the Big Horn Wind Project, is still in Klickitat's permitting process. It is proposed for a site four miles south of Bickleton.

According to original documents provided by Dreyer, up to 167 wind turbines will be sought at Big Horn with a capacity to generate up to 250 megawatts of power. That is slightly more capacity than White River, which is looking at up to 200 megawatts.

The applicant is PPM Energy of Portland, Ore. and the project is proposed for 21,090 acres.

According to application documents, "Representatives of the Clark Ranch Partnership objected to placement of wind turbines in immediate proximity to some of their property lines."

The concern is that turbines may render their property less desirable for similar development. According to current Klickitat County land use regulations, property line setbacks are not required for wind turbines.

Other concerns already addressed by Big Horn, according to staff, are impacts on views, lighting and impacts to birds.

Big Horn Project Manager Eric Lallum said acreage has already been set aside for bird habitat. In addition, the site is meeting similar mitigation requirements as those required of White Creek.

Jan Johnson, a PPM spokesperson, said the project will likely be on a smaller scale than that expressed in original application documents.

"The likely scenario is possibly up to 130 or so turbines," she said.

As with White River, about 100 construction workers will be needed to build Big Horn and 10 to 15 permanent employees will be hired.

One big difference, of course, is that Big Horn still needs county approval.

"We're still in the permitting process with it so we weren't ready to make a public announcement," said Johnson.

She said PPM is "enthusiastic" and actively pursuing permits, but she came up just short of saying Big Horn is a done deal. "It's in the pipeline of development opportunities," she said.

No contract has yet been signed with an energy provider to purchase Big Horn's potential power. Lallum did say an arrangement is in place with the Bonneville Power Administration as an inter-connect agency.

For more on either the Big Horn or White Creek wind farm proposals contact the Klickitat County Planning Department at 1-800-765-7239. Call the same number for information on future public meetings regarding Big Horn.

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