Got Questions About Clean Energy?
Because wind turbines are such a great source of clean, renewable energy, they’re usually greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm. At Scout Clean Energy, we also recognize that big ideas sometimes lead to big questions. That’s why transparency with the local community about our wind energy projects is important to everyone here at our company.
We are proud of our plans to develop wind energy resources in Benton County that are low impact and cost-competitive and welcome the opportunity to answer questions about the project. When armed with the facts, we are confident you will find the Horse Heaven Wind Farm represents a win-win scenario for the local community and Washington industry.
Scout Clean Energy is a utility-scale wind energy developer based in Boulder, Colorado. Founded in 2016, Scout is a young company but made up of a long-standing management team with an extensive track record developing large-scale wind projects, such as, the Persimmon Creek Wind Farm in Woodward County, Oklahoma that began operations in December 2018, the Ranchero Wind Farm in Crockett County, Texas that began operations in October 2019 and the Heart of Texas Wind Farm in McCulloch County, Texas that began operations in May 2020. This brings Scout’s operational portfolio of wind energy generation to 698 MW with a further 146 MW under construction and more than 4,000 MW in our active development pipeline.
The Horse Heaven Wind Farm development began in late-2016 in the form of leasing, land acquisition and environmental surveys which were conducted by both Scout Clean Energy and wpd, a Portland, Oregon-based wind energy developer that previously held lease agreements in the Benton County. Scout has acquired wpd’s assets in the area, and the two previously planned projects are now combined under Scout Clean Energy.
The Horse Heaven Wind Farm will be a renewable energy generation facility in Benton County, Washington that would have a nameplate energy generating capacity of up to 850 megawatts (MW), combining wind, solar, and battery energy storage. The project will consist of up to 235 General Electric (GE) wind turbine generators with the exact model to be determined closer to construction and based on availability. The project will also consist of underground electric collection lines, communications lines, and two electric substations, along with operations/maintenance shops and other ancillary facilities.
The Horse Heaven Wind Farm project will be located just south of the Tri-Cities. At its closest point, the Project is located approximately 4-miles south/southwest of the city of Kennewick and the larger Tri-Cities urban area. To-date, we have substantial acreage under wind energy lease and easement agreements. Much of the area is privately owned and actively managed for dry land agriculture and livestock grazing.
The Horse Heaven Wind Farm is anticipated to reach important milestones for permitting and construction in 2021. The permitting process incorporates a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the proposal. The project will likely come online in phases:
- Phase 1: up to 350 megawatts (MW) of wind-solar-battery storage, expected to begin operations by late 2022
- Phase 2: up to 500 megawatts (MW) of wind-solar-battery storage, expected to begin operations by the end of 2023.
A team of independent experts is currently wrapping up more than three-years of environmental studies for the Horse Heaven Wind Farm project. We are excited to share results from this comprehensive review that will be submitted as part of our application and which incorporates the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) criteria. In addition to local agencies, our due diligence process includes coordinating with multiple state and federal agencies including the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the US Fish & Wildlife Service as well as local stakeholders.
The environmental review criteria include all impacts to the environment relating to humans and wildlife, including technology specific features. The Horse Heaven Wind Farm has already completed multiple studies to determine biological, aesthetic and cultural impacts. Modeling for visual and noise impacts is being conducted to ensure the project complies with all relevant regulations. In no event will the Horse Heaven Wind Farm exceed Washington State noise standards.
We share the public’s concerns about bird and bat mortality, which is why we site our projects carefully to minimize impacts. Studies demonstrate that the Horse Heaven project poses a low risk to avian species relative to other wind energy projects in the Pacific Northwest. According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, wind energy infrastructure causes a small fraction of all human-related bird deaths as compared to domestic cats, windows, and vehicles. In fact, the Audubon Society strongly supports properly sited wind energy facilities that reduce the threat to birds posed by a warming climate.
The Horse Heaven Wind farm would be located near the Nine Canyon Wind Project, which has been operational since 2002. A post-construction 2-year study as well as operational monitoring of that facility have also demonstrated low project impact to common avian and bat species.
In 2019, the state enacted a law that commits Washington to a carbon-neutral energy supply by 2030. Utilities across Washington State seek to use renewable energy for their electricity needs, and non-traditional Corporate and Industrial buyers are also increasing their commitment to renewable power. These businesses have a rapidly growing appetite for affordable clean energy, and wind energy is poised to help meet that demand. A growing interest for renewable energy has enabled recent development such as the Skookumchuck Wind Project currently in construction in Lewis County near Centralia. The Horse Heaven project will contribute to a diverse energy market that is affordable, reliable and meets the needs of Washington businesses and communities.
The Project would provide a new renewable source of low-cost energy for Washington and the United States, helping the nation move towards the goal of energy independence while reducing pollution and carbon emissions. Current state and federal economic policies enhance the ability for wind energy to deliver low cost energy to northwest rate payers; however, these economic policies have sunset dates and require construction and operation in the near term. Therefore, timely support and approval of this application will assist in developing low-cost renewable energy, rural diversification, and economic development — including local tax revenue and employment opportunities
A single wind turbine and associated access road removes approximately one-half acre from agricultural production. The proposed wind farm will co-exist well with the agricultural land use in the area, allowing farmers to continue growing crops while generating supplemental revenue from the turbines.
Although the proposed wind turbines are tall at 500-feet to blade tip, they will be similar in scale to the newest wind turbines at the existing Nine Canyon Wind Project that are 415-feet high. Visual simulations are currently being developed based on numerous viewpoints in the surrounding area as required for the SEPA process. These simulations will provide a good representation of how the project will look once constructed and will be posted to the project website once completed.
The Horse Heaven project will contribute to a diverse energy market that is affordable, reliable and meets the needs of Washington businesses and communities. To operate reliably, our power grid requires energy, capacity, and flexibility. Portfolio diversity is the key to a reliable power system, as no resource is available 100% of the time and all power plants are dependent on all others to back them up. Wind energy fits well into this mix as a low-cost source of energy, offering capacity and flexibility to alleviate extreme winter price swings and help keep the lights on.
Wind turbines produce energy 65-80% of the time and contribute to an overall energy production strategy. Portfolio diversity is the key, as no resource is available 100% of the time. All power plants have reduced output at times, and grid operators plan for wind’s contribution using the same tools they use to evaluate the contributions of other resources. During a number of events, wind has demonstrated its contribution to a more diverse and resilient energy portfolio by stepping in when other resources failed unexpectedly.
Yes, much like every other energy generating industry, wind generation does receive minimal subsidies that provide a net-benefit to taxpayers and ratepayers. The primary growth incentive for the wind industry has been the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is a performance-based incentive that attracts more than $15 billion a year in private investment across the country. The PTC has been important to the growth and development of renewable energy resources, and driven improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technology.
Tax credits ultimately provide lower-cost power for the ratepayers consuming the electrical output, which has been the primary goal of this incentive. These credits also help to level the playing field as oil, gas, nuclear also receive subsidies that are in some cases permanent in the tax code. While Scout Clean Energy's investors do take advantage of the PTC, we feel it’s important to note that increases in county tax revenue generated by our private investment will funnel substantial benefits to the local community. At current levy rates, a 250 MW build-out of the project could generate $30 million in tax revenue for Benton County over the 25-year lifespan. Under current allocations, the largest proportion of those funds would support local schools.
There is no direct relationship between construction of the Horse Heaven Wind Farm and removal of the four Lower Snake River dams. The region needs additional energy capacity such as the Horse Heaven project and the Lower Snake dams to meet our future winter electricity demand needs.
Studies show wind energy projects do not affect property values. The most comprehensive study to date was prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy, and analyzed data from more than 50,000 home sales among 27 counties in nine U.S. states. The study concluded “We find no statistical evidence that home values near turbines were affected in the turbine post-construction or post-announcement/pre-construction periods.”
Three of the most influential factors that affect property values include tax levels, school system quality, and strength of the local economy, and wind plays a positive role in all three. Wind farms nationwide paid over $1 billion in state and local taxes and land lease payments in 2019. Rural communities that often have low tax bases benefit tremendously from the influx of new tax revenue wind farms bring.
The report was prepared for the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Texas A&M University and San Diego State University.
Modern wind turbines are more efficient and affordable that those built even just a decade ago. Wind’s cost has declined by 69 percent over the last decade, with improved technology and U.S.-based manufacturing. The average cost of wind energy depends on turbine size, project size, and location. Life cycle analysis of similar models to what is proposed show that a typical wind turbine has an energy payback of 5-8 months and carbon payback of 1 year.
Wind turbines have long life cycles, the Horse Heaven Wind Farm wind turbines will be required to be designed to operate for 25 years per international certification standards. To ensure the wind farm is removed and the landowner’s property is reclaimed when the project is no longer operational, the Horse Heaven Wind Farm will post security to cover these costs. This means the landowners, nor the local government will have to pay for removing the wind farm.
Wind turbines contain reusable components and have a recyclability rate of 85% to 90%. Some of the components that are reusable and can be salvaged include the foundation, tower, gearbox and generator due to the metal these components contain. Recycling turbine blades is challenging. Wind turbine blades are made up of composite materials that boost the performance of wind energy by allowing lighter and longer blades. The complexity of this composite material requires specific processes for recycling.
Making environmentally sustainable wind turbines is a top priority for the wind energy industry. Recently several solutions have been developed to recycle wind turbine blades, and a few established methods for recycling the blades are currently available. The wind energy industry is committed to research and develop new ways to recycle these composite materials. Today, the main technology for recycling composite waste is through cement co-processing. Further development of alternative technologies will provide the wind industry with additional solutions for end-of-life. A Washington company, Global Fiberglass Solutions, has developed a method to crush the blades into pellets to be used in flooring and walls.