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Three New Projects Could Sextuple Oregonís Wind Power

July 06, 2006 - Dan Richardson - News West

Electricity, the spark that lights our civilization, comes mostly from the dams and coal plants in Oregon. But wind power - less reliable, but infinitely cleaner and less-impacting - is making small steps towards Gov. Kulongoskiís 25 percent power goal by 2025. All of Oregonís wind power is generated just east of the Columbia Gorge, on the windy heights in Sherman County and points east.

This week, encouraging news comes that more wind turbines are on the way, with two new wind power projects announced to be online by the end of 2007. Together, the projects - Klondike III by PPM Energy and the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm by Portland General Electric - will triple the stateís wind-generation, to more than 700 potential megawatts.

A third project - Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, planned by a California company near Arlington - would double the stateís wind power capacity again, to nearly 1,500 megawatts. Sounds impressive, and promising. But all the projects, at full capacity (which wind power rarely is) satiate our power appetite. Not yet, anyway: The Dalles Dam has a peak generating capacity of 1,780 megawatts.

And there are three other Columbia River dams in Oregon alone, not to mention the coal-fired power plants. Ah, coal, you warm our homes and dirty our air. Also in recent good electricity news, Oregonís Department of Environmental Quality is backing off its weak-kneed mercury pollution plan for the infamously dirty coal-fired power plant near Boardman, and pledging to draw up tougher standards.

Pollution isnít the only price we pay for power: The Yakama Indians are considering legal action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - the builder and operator of The Dalles Dam. The dam not only inundated native villages, say the Yakama, but also salmon spawning areas, and its turbines have killed juvenile fish for 50 years. Says one tribal official, ďWe want an accounting for that.Ē