Report: Horse Heaven Energy Project
by Don Jenkins
Cattle could graze around the windmills and the solar panels would
take up about 2% of Benton County's dryland agricultural land.
The Horse Heaven energy project in southeast Washington will have a "low" impact on agriculture, even though windmills and solar panels would take about 6,800 acres of farmland, according to a draft environmental impact statement issued Monday.
Scout Clean Energy, based in Colorado and bought last week by a Canadian investment firm for $1 billion, proposes to build solar arrays, battery storage areas and up to 244 windmills on the Columbia Plateau 4 miles south of Kennewick.
The project, the largest renewable energy development proposed in Washington, will have "high" impacts on views, tribal sites, ferruginous hawks and hang gliders, according to the draft EIS.
Scout plans to lease 72,000 acres, most from farmers. Most of the land would stay in wheat farming, and the payments will supplement farm income, according to the draft EIS.
Cattle could graze around the windmills and the solar panels would take up about 2% of Benton County's dryland agricultural land, according to the report.
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council released the draft EIS for public comment. The report includes measures Scout would take to lessen the project's impacts.
The company stated in a press release Monday that the project would "revolutionize the energy landscape in Eastern Washington."
"We are currently focused on a careful and detailed review of the draft EIS so we can provide meaningful comments to EFSEC that supports the development of a final EIS," Scout project manager Dave Kobus said in a statement.
Brookfield Renewable Partners, based in Toronto, bought Scout from Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners of Australia. Scout announced Friday that the acquisition had been finalized.
Brookfield Renewable, owned by Brookfield Asset Management, last spring bought the rights from a Seattle company to build the Goose Prairie solar project in Yakima County.
Wind and solar power generated by the Horse Heaven project would connect to Bonneville Power Administration lines and be distributed, including potentially to out-of-state customers, according to the draft EIS.
Benton County commissioners oppose the project, though the decision whether to permit it will be up to Gov. Jay Inslee. EFSEC will make a recommendation to the governor.
The project likely will disturb nesting ferruginous hawks and spinning blades will be a hazard, according to the draft EIS. The blades also would affect hang gliding in the area.
The windmills will dominate the ridge. The draft EIS proposes ways to minimize the visual impact, such as prohibiting advertising and cell antennas on the windmills.
Battery storage areas could be painted and designed to blend in with the agricultural character of the area, according to the EIS.
To mitigate the loss of uninterrupted views, Scout could put up reader boards at viewpoints. "These boards should include photographs of the view shed prior to the construction of the project," according to the draft EIS.
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