Wind farm project blowing away - Developer of a proposed wind farm north of Prosser said Monday that the company will kill the project before paying for another environmental study

October 7th, 2003

By Chris Mulick Tri-City Herald staff writer

Prosser, WA - The developer of a proposed wind farm north of Prosser said Monday that the company will kill the project before paying for another environmental study.

The Benton County Board of Adjustment last week put off approving a permit for the Maiden Wind Farm until Feb. 5 so a supplemental environmental impact statement can be prepared to measure impacts on neighboring elk and two Hanford facilities.

Officials from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Battelle Gravitation Physics Laboratory argue the project could produce ground vibrations that could disrupt sensitive equipment they use to detect gravity ripples from deep space.

Rick Koebbe, president of Washington Winds, said the company and its potential customer, the Bonneville Power Administration, already have spent $1 million on environmental studies and won't spend any more.

"The county is not willing to give us a permit," he said. "They won't say no but they give you a 'no' by studying it to death."

The county is in the process of gathering comments about what the supplemental study should look like. Comments are due by 5 p.m. Friday. It won't be known how much the study would cost or who would conduct it until after that.

Typically, developers reimburse the county for the studies or pay for them directly. Washington Winds will be contacted before any work begins, said Mike Shuttleworth, a senior planner for the county.

"They're on their own," Koebbe said.

If built, the project -- first announced in May 2001 -- could grow to generate as many as 125 average megawatts, more than even the Stateline Wind Project on the Washington-Oregon border.

Bonneville has an option to buy a portion of the output from the Maiden Wind Farm and three investor-owned utilities -- Avista, PacifiCorp and Puget Sound Energy -- also are looking for additional wind power to add to their power portfolios.

But Washington Winds may not have a project to pitch them and questions why the Hanford gravity projects can operate effectively with all the other activity at the nuclear reservation but not with a wind farm that at its closest point would be six miles away.

"There is no study that will definitively come to any conclusion that Hanford would accept," Koebbe said.

It's unlikely the company would seek to sell the project to another developer.

"If we can't get a permit, nobody can get a permit," Koebbe said.


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