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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mammoth Oregon wind farm project can move forward, senators say

Some encouraging news for renewable energy in our region: In a joint release yesterday, Oregon's two Democratic senators and lone Republican representative disclosed that the Department of Defense has relented and dropped its opposition to the construction of a mammoth wind farm in Gilliam and Morrow counties.

Shepherds Flat, originally approved by state regulators in 2008, had its groundbreaking last year, but was imperiled when the Department of Defense objected, fearing the wind turbines would interfere with its fifty year old radar station based in nearby Fossil.

(No pun intended here... Fossil is actually the county seat of Gilliam County. Its population is quite small at only four hundred and sixty nine people).

The Federal Aviation Administration subsequently issued a notice of presumed hazard, which stopped construction on the project.

Ever since, Oregon's congressional delegation has been working diligently to appease the Pentagon's concerns. Now those efforts have finally paid off: the Department of Defense has decided to simply upgrade its radar facility instead of continuing to hold Shepards Flat hostage indefinitely.

"This is great news for thousands of families who will earn a paycheck because of work on this project. And it will help contribute to Oregon’s emergence as a global leader in clean energy production,” Senator Jeff Merkley said.

"I thank the Department of Defense for resolving this issue and responding to our concerns about the negative effect that shutting down this project would have had on the Oregon economy."

The contractor for Shepherds Flat — Caithness Energy of New York — says that once completed, it will be the largest wind farm in Oregon (and the largest land-based wind farm in the world), with total capacity of up to hundred and nine megawatts. The project spans thirty two thousand acres and will require dozens of miles of new power lines and roads. Turbines are being supplied by General Electric.

Once the project is finished, its turbines will supply electricity to Southern California Edison, which serves one of the most power-hungry metro areas in the U.S.

Caithness anticipates hiring some seven hundred workers to build Shepherds Flat.

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