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Energy Northwest Makes
Wise Choice on Radar Ridge

by Staff
Tri-City Herald, November 20, 2011

We won't feign disappointment that Energy Northwest has canceled its Radar Ridge wind power project.

Some might have gotten perverse satisfaction that the west side of the Cascades was to get a dose of the visual blight that wind power generators bring.

But frankly, we feel Western Washington is entirely too beautiful to be subjected to those spinning giants.

We feel the same way about Eastern Washington, but suspect our charitable thoughts aren't reciprocated on the west side.

We're just "ugly brown hills" to at least a few over there, good only for passing through on the way east or as a repository for Seattle's garbage.

New restrictions proposed for the project by U.S. Fish and Wildlife were unreasonable, Jack Baker, Energy Northwest vice president for energy business services, told Herald reporter Annette Cary.

Among those restrictions: Requiring that the turbines not operate for six months of the year during daylight hours because of the threat the whirling blades pose to marbled murrelets, a threatened seabird.

Also considered a problem is the "softness" of the market for wind power at this time.

Also lurking somewhere in the directors' minds is the argument over whether the taxpayers in these difficult times will be willing to give tax breaks, special status and subsidies to the wind farms.

At the federal level, friends of wind power face stiffening opposition to subsidizing the technology at a time when much cheaper power is readily available from existing hydroelectric dams.

Energy Northwest's chief source of power is nuclear energy, scorned by many environmentalists who would rather erect wind farms in the backyard (ours, not theirs).

It has been 20 years since the first "green energy" crusaders showed up at the Herald offices, looking for editorial endorsement of their plan to put a wind farm on Rattlesnake Mountain.

They did not get it.

In fact, the public became so stirred up at the very prospect of huge wind-driven power generators on the scenic signature of the area, that there still are none there today.

But because of misguided, willful mislabeling of wind power as "green" and political maneuvering at the state level, we in the Tri-Cities are nearly surrounded by hills covered with these wind generators.

Our beautiful landscapes are beginning to look like a sea of blow-fish carcasses.

Yet we pay extra for our power and in our taxes just to benefit the companies erecting these towers. All forms of energy benefit from government subsidies to some extent, but how much of government spending on wind power ends up overseas, where most of the turbines are manufactured.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, wants to extend tax credits for more wind power through 2016. The subsidies are scheduled to expire in 2012.

Energy Northwest has already paid about half of the $4 million spent on the project so far. Even so, the agency has decided that it is simply too risky to spend any more of the ratepayers' money.

We have observed for years that wind farms seem a risky investment, especially when public money is involved.

Laws vary on requiring removal of wind generators for newer models or closing old fields. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management requires excavation of the foundations down to one meter below the surface of the surrounding land.

A crisis could occur if tax breaks for wind farms ever are eliminated, particularly with companies entirely dependent upon wind power for their income.

No matter what the law may require, a company that has gone broke may not be able to pony up the removal costs.

Energy Northwest is not in that situation.

But, nevertheless, it was wise to back out of the Radar Ridge project as soon as it did.

Energy Northwest Makes Wise Choice on Radar Ridge
Tri-City Herald, November 20, 2011

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