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Renewable Energy at Your Doorstep

By Worldchanging Seattle blogger, Serena Batten

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) became the largest producer of renewable energy in the Pacific Northwest with the completion of the Wild Horse Wind Project near Ellensburg, Washington. The project was declared fully operational in December, bringing 127 turbines online with the capacity to generate 229-megawatts of energy. Additionally, PSE’s first 83-turbine wind facility, Hopkins Ridge, became operational in 2005 near Walla Walla, WA.  Together, the two wind facilities are expected to generate enough energy to power 125,000 households in Washington State.

In building the Wild Horse facility, planners took into account wildlife-migration patterns, local livestock grazing, and the flight paths of winged animals. Native plants were protected or relocated and today cattle, elk, deer, and other wildlife continue to graze on these lands.

The Project’s developers, Horizon Wind, explained:

"Wind farms are perhaps the most environmentally benign source of utility-scale power generation, because operating wind farms produce no air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, or carbon dioxide. Furthermore, wind farms do not consume cooling water, and they do not interfere materially with the existing land use, which typically use under two percent of the land they occupy. As a result, wind farms tend to preserve open space and protect it from urbanization and other development."

In Washington, wind energy costs $45 to $65 per megawatt(MWh), a less expensive option than other types of power generation.  Coal, natural gas, and hydro energy generation all cost more per MWh than wind energy.

In a recent press release Stephen P. Reynolds, CEO of PSE stated:

"As a leader of wind power in Washington, we want to advance the development of solar technology and other clean, renewable energy resources here in the Pacific Northwest." He continued, "The pilot project at Wild Horse will promote solar development and help PSE gain a better understanding of how solar power can be integrated into our broader power-supply portfolio."

Finding new cost-effective, renewable energy-generation methods is critical to for the Puget Sound region, whose population and power consumption continues to grow.  PSE, with 1 million customers currently, expects their customer base to continue growing at a rate of 20,000 customers per year.

PSE is not the only entity committed to renewable energy, Governor Chris Gregoire, who was also present at the Wild Horse Project Dedication, promised to help Washington State produce clean, environmentally responsible energy.  Her vision includes private investments and legislation in the areas of biofules, wind and solar energy, and “smart? energy grids, to name a few. 

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