Baker City Herald: “Steens Mountain: A backyard with room for wind turbines.”

Posted on 19. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

There’s an editorial in the Baker City Herald today: “Steens Mountain: A backyard with room for wind turbines.

In it, Jayson Jacoby offers the perspective of someone who travels to the Steens “as often as I can manage” and obviously loves the place. But he can imagine wind turbines there, too, because What we need, I believe, is the courage to concede that compromises are necessary.”

Mr. Jacoby also sees the project in perspective:

“But set against a scene like the Steens they (turbines) are rendered mere playthings, steel toys in a gigantic playground of basalt and sage and sky.”

He has obviously looked at maps and thought about how the project will impact the landscape:

“I’d be incensed too if anybody proposed lining the Steens Loop Road with turbines, or stringing a picket line of towers across the alpine tundra of the summit rim or through the Alvord Desert.

“But no one has suggested doing that.

“So far the wind farm sites are all north of the Loop Road, which also means they’re north of the highest — and in my estimation the prettiest — part of the 50-mile-long fault-block mountain.

“Which is not to say the wind farms will be invisible, or even inconspicuous.

“It’s pretty difficult to hide dozens of 415-foot towers, even in country that sprawls as magnificently as the Steens.

“Trouble is, it’s also a challenge to make electricity from wind in a place that’s not, you know, windy.”

He adds a welcome note:

“I doubt, at any rate, that Columbia Energy Partners chose the north slopes of the Steens because they wanted to annoy as many people as possible.”

Mr. Jacoby writes about compromises and the need to realistically consider what it takes to make renewable energy work.

“If weaning ourselves from petroleum and coal requires that we build wind turbines — and I think we must — then we ought to build them where the wind blows hard and long.

“I go to the Steens country as often as I can manage, and I intend to keep doing so.

“Someday, perhaps, I’ll climb the gentle western slopes toward the distinctive notch in Kiger Gorge’s glacial headwall, driving a rig that burns electrons instead of unleaded.

“That will be a fine day, and a fine feeling to know I’m doing nothing to foul the pure air of the high places.

“I will look to the north and maybe I will see the vanes of a turbine, turning lazily, doing their good work.

“Wind farms are important, in that way.

“But set against a scene like the Steens they are rendered mere playthings, steel toys in a gigantic playground of basalt and sage and sky.

“A place that is no one’s backyard.

“And everyone’s.

Although no one at Columbia Energy Partners has ever spoken with Mr. Jacoby, we share his love of the Steens, and his belief that responsibly developed renewable energy projects have a place there.

Harney County and the Steens Mountains: the next Gorge?

Posted on 12. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

People see a lot of turbines in the east end of the Columbia River Gorge and wonder, “Is that going to happen in the Steens and southeastern Oregon, too?”

No. No, it’s not. For several reasons.

First and foremost, there simply are not many acres of land with sufficient wind resource. In fact, much of the best land (from a wind resource standpoint) is federally owned and designated as Wilderness or Wilderness Study Area (WSA). Those lands cannot be developed, period.

The map here has an overlay of publicly-available wind resource data and land ownership. Note how few acres show “developable” wind – it’s a total of about 95,000 acres. In a county of 10,000 square miles!

No, southeastern Oregon is NOT going to be the next Gorge, though a few good projects will be built where it is legal and appropriate to harvest these essential winter season winds to compliment the spring and summer winds in the Columbia River Gorge.

Oregonian editorial makes good points on Echanis project

Posted on 11. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog, Renewable Energy News

The Oregonian’s lead editorial today bears the headline in its print edition: “Yoking Oregon’s wind where it may matter most.” The author understood the importance of balancing the spring-summer winds in the Columbia River Gorge with the winter-peaking winds at Echanis:

So here we are, listing in the Oregon wind, which rips hard through the Steens, especially in the winter months when Columbia Gorge winds diminish.

That’s a pretty good balancing act between wind venues.

They also note – after carefully examining visual simulations prepared for the EIS on our transmission line – turbines “dwarfed by the scale of the place and hardly so visible as many on display elsewhere in Oregon.”

The editors give us credit for our willingness to permit future projects in the area through the state permit process, which we are prepared to do, especially if groups who’ve so far opposed the project are willing to work with us on a “win-win” resolution to move forward.

Back to “balance…” The editors struck a hopeful tone, which we share:

So here we are, listing in the Oregon wind, which rips hard through the Steens, especially in the winter months when Columbia Gorge winds diminish.

That’s a pretty good balancing act between wind venues.

We hope for a like balance as we move forward. Siting, environmental and economic impacts — those subjects should make for the broadest possible conversations, seeing as so much of the land concerns us all.

The Oregonian has shown an openness to the project which we hope others will heed and follow.

Oregonian to print retraction for erroneous photo, headline

Posted on 11. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

The Oregonian’s early editions of the Sunday February 7th paper (printed on Saturday the 6th, called a “bulldog” edition) raised alarms around our community with a terribly misleading photo and headline… The headline was, “Picture a hundred turbines here” pasted across a beautiful photo of the High Steens.

Of course, there will be ZERO turbines in the High Steens or any part of the Wilderness. The editors apparently felt they could drum up interest with that headline and photo. Happily, they realized their mistake when we called them on it. They apparently agreed that it is reasonable that when a newspaper says “here,” they mean “here.” Once we discussed it, the editors agreed to change the paper substantially for the later editions that were delivered to Portland area subscribers.

But people outside the Portland area, or those who bought the “bulldog” in stores or coin boxes, saw the erroneous version and it did have an impact. Here’s an example we found on one web site that was posted after The Oregonian story ran.

Even we got a laugh out of this, kind of…

We love the Steens as much as anyone. We believe strongly that our projects there, on private property, outside of any federal or restricted land, will supply a vital link in the Northwest’ renewable energy mix with winter-peaking wind power and help rebuild a community eager to join the green economy.

Click here to view what the turbines will really look like. You’ll need to use the zoom tool in the pdf link to see the turbines in many of the viewpoints.

We appreciate The Oregonian’s willingness to correct the error. A retraction will appear in The Sunday Oregonian on Valentine’s Day, February 14th.

Turbines on Steens: visible from where, exactly?

Posted on 07. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog

The Steens are an amazing formation, with the most spectacular areas preserved as Wilderness by Congress in the year 2000. Some 170,000 acres of Wilderness enshrine the “High Steens” and the spectacular gorges to the west and south.

The Steens Act also explicitly preserved private property rights. Our projects are planned for private property on the northern slopes of Steens Mountain, not in the wilderness, not on public land.

Most of the project will not be visible from the commonly-accessed places the hardy souls who drive up Steens Mountain go. The “high Steens” mostly block views from the wilderness of the private lands where the turbines will be located. Not completely. Some turbines will be visible from Frenchglenn (about 15 miles away).

Frenchglen looking at West Ridge Wind Project

… or from Kiger Gorge viewpoint, also in the distance looking at the East Ridge project.

Looking at East Ridge from Kiger Gorge Overlook

… and even from the Steens Overlook.

Looking at Echanis from the East Rim Overlook

View a map with viewpoint locations and additional photos.

What impact the turbines will have on some views is in the eye of the beholder. This issue is being carefully considered in the ongoing Environmental Impact Study being conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for an easement across BLM lands outside the Steens Mountain wilderness or other restricted areas.

Early editions of the Sunday February 7th Oregonian showed an iconic photo of the Steens Mountain Wilderness (the High Steens, shown from the east) with the caption: “Picture a hundred turbines here.” But there will be NO turbines in the area the photo showed, NO turbines will be visible from the place that photo was taken and there will be NO turbines in the wilderness or any public lands.

Thankfully, the Oregonian agreed to correct the error and run a photo that more accurately reflects the project area.

President Obama speaks out on jobs

Posted on 03. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

“Jobs will be our No. 1 focus in 2010,” the President told an audience in Nashua, NH this week. “And we’re going to start where most new jobs do — with small businesses.”

We say hooray to that. The effects of the down economy are still felt acutely around Oregon.

A friend from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) provided some stark statistics from Oregon locals. Unemployment among IBEW members was 33% in the Portland area (Local 48); 47% percent in central Oregon (Local 280) and 47% in southern Oregon (Local 659). Unemployment that high among those skilled workers is a sure sign that recovery still has a ways to go.

CEP and IBEW have worked together on projects and policy for years. We’d like to work together again on putting IBEW members to work on the Greater Echanis wind projects and help to bring these fabulous resources on line soon.