Wind energy is fast becoming a major industry for the Columbia River Gorge and its surrounding counties. Several projects (pdf) in various stages of development promise to bring in temporary construction jobs as well as some more permanent wind technician positions. The local community college already offers a training program for aspiring wind technicians and local landowners are exploring the benefits of leasing their property to accommodate wind turbines for decades to come. Many residents are optimistic that these projects will bring in tax revenue that could offer a much-needed boost to the struggling rural area.
Wind farm development in the Gorge has also met with some local opposition, which cites concerns that turbines will negatively impact the scenic area — specifically the tourism dollars many residents depend on. The Bonneville Power Administration is also uneasy about the spike in wind farm development and the economic drivers behind it (namely tax credits and state renewable energy requirements).
Last year, a developer pulled its proposal to build a 60 megawatt wind project on Seven Mile Hill, close to The Dalles. Another developer is in the permitting process to build a 200 megawatt wind farm on a more rural site known as Summit Ridge, along the Deschutes River south of the Gorge. Though it’s a much bigger project than the one proposed for Seven Mile Hill, the Summit Ridge project is far less controversial, in part because of its relatively remote location.
This is part of OPB’s Rural Economy Project, a look at how economies outside the metro area are changing.
Do you live or work in the Gorge? How would wind farms in the area impact your life?
Note: We’ll be recording this show in front of an audience on May 27th at The Dalles Civic Auditorium There’s a reception at 5:30 pm and the show starts at 6:30 pm sharp. It’s first come, first seated.
UPDATE, Friday, May 28: We had a wonderful crowd last night! Thank you all for bringing your knowledge and questions. If you weren’t there, or want to listen back, you can hear the show here now.
- Peter Schell: Student in the Renewable Energy Technology program at Columbia Gorge Community College
- Don Coats: Wheat farmer
- Dallas Fridley: Regional economist for the Oregon Employement Department
- Chuck Leber: Vice president of technical services at LotusWorks and project manager for the Summit Ridge wind project