Sunday, November 9, 2008

PSE Gets Approval to Expand Wind Farm

Kittitas County commissioners approved a requested expansion of Puget Sound Energy's Wild Horse Wind Farm by 22 additional turbines last week. The approval adds about 960 acres owned by PSE and an additional 300 acres leased from Washington State's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to the current 8,600 acre project. Final approval from the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) is still needed prior to construction. The EFSEC previously approved a maximum of 158 turbines for the site. The 22 new turbines would cost approximately $66M and add another 40-50MW to the current maximum output of 229MW.

The 127-turbine project is widely viewed as amongst the most successful of the Eastern Washington wind farms, but the approval Tuesday was not without opposition.
The unanimous OK from commissioners came despite comments from representatives of the Kittitas Audubon Society. Hal Lindstrom of Ellensburg, a local Audubon member called on commissioners to not take action on the agreement until a conservation easement is approved between PSE and the state wildlife

The easement would make all PSE project land off-limits for other types of development other than alternative power production. Also asking for the conservation easement is the nonprofit Friends of Wildlife & Wind Power and the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club, according to Lindstrom who was contacted after the meeting.

David Bowen, PSE’s municipal liaison manager for Kittitas County and Central Washington, contacted later said a draft conservation easement is now under review by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, and it’s hoped to be approved soon.

Lindstrom also said there was a need for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the project area expansion, and that it should be publicly reviewed and approved first before the county acts.

PSE officials said the draft supplemental EIS is expected to be released for public review next week, with deadlines for public comment.

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