By Roy L Hales
Thanks to an interactive map created by the U.S. Geological Survey, it is now possible to make a virtual visit to any one of America’s 47,000 ground-based wind turbines. So I decided to look up Washington’s wind farms. Using the hand shaped icon in the left margin, you can access the name and some details about each project, but if you are like me you will probably keep googling for more.
There are a some isolated turbines in the Puget Sound area, but the only large scale project on the coast is the Coyote Crest Wind Farm. This was supposed to consist of 50 turbines, when they announced it back 2009, but it is only a nebulous haze on the map. That’s because the project is still “proposed.”
To see real wind farms, you have to leave the coastal rainforest and proceed inland along the I-90. The 48 turbines in the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, outside of Ellensburg each have the capacity to generate 2.1 MW each. When the wind farm is operating at 100% capacity, which is most likely not often, this wind farm will generate 100.8 MW. The Wild Horse and Vantage projects, on the other side of town, have a capacity of 149MW and 90 MW respectively. These turbines also cast a definable shadow, which is why I decided to zero in on for the image above. The power from these facilities primarly goes to Puget Sound Power, though Kittitas also supplies Bonneville Power.
There are another two pink clusters in the eastern part of Washington. The 58 turbines of the Palouse Wind farm were built to the surrounding communities of the Washington/Idaho border – they each have up to 1.8 MW of power capacity. The much larger cluster of further down to the left, is made up of the Lower Snake River 1 site (149 2.3-MW turbines totalling 343 MW of power capacity), Hopkins Ridge 1 site (157 MW of power capacity), Marengo Wind 1 site ( 140 MW) and 2 site (which also uses 1.8 MW capacity turbines). The first two facilities are owned by Puget Sound Energy and the Marengo by Portland based PacifiCorp.
The biggest concentration of wind farms are found along the Columbia River, that divides Washington from Oregon.
The 186 turbines of the Stateline Wind farm are on the east bank and straddle the border with Oregon. This project, owned by Florida Power and Light, has been online since 2001. That date might explain why such a large facility uses 0.66 MW (quite small) turbines for a total installed capacity of 307 MW.
The Nine Canyon site, on the West bank of the Columbia (not shown), looks smaller but has only 63 turbines but produces 95.9MW.
Proceeding West, when you get to the middle of the map there is an immense concentration of windfarms sprawling out on both sides of the river. Windy Point/Windy Hills (500 MW) stretches out for 90 square miles and, along with the Big Horn Wind Farm (250MW), sends its energy to California. The rest of the wind farms on the Washington side – Juniper Canyon (250 MW) Havest Wind (99 MW) White Creek (94 MW) Goodnoe Hills (205 MW) and the Klickitat County (unknown) – all produce power for local consumption.
That ends my tour of Washington, but the interactive map will allow you to visit wind farm locations anywhere in the US: http://eerscmap.usgs.gov/windfarm/