Developer: First Wind
Wasco County, OR
Cascade Wind is located on Sevenmile Hill, between The Dalles and Mosier in Wasco County, Oregon. This area is a part of the Columbia River Plateau region of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. This region is (in general) sparsely populated and the major land use pattern is agricultural. However, over half of the county's residents (population: 23,712) live nearby in The Dalles (population: 12,520). The population density of Wasco County is 26 persons per square mile, but for The Dalles, the population density is about 1440 persons per square mile. In the 2000 census, the median household income in Wasco County was $35,959 and the per capita income was $17,195. The median household and per capita income in The Dalles were nearly identical at $35,430 and $17,511, respectively.
The Cascade Wind project, as proposed, would be a 60-MW project using 40 General Electric 1.5-MW SLE turbines. These turbines have a hub height of 263 ft with a total turbine height of 389 ft. The project would “permanently disturb” about 57 acres of privately held land and temporarily disturb about 51 additional acres during construction and installation. It would not require the construction of any new high-voltage transmission lines. Compared to other developments in the region, Cascade wind is relatively small. However, when considering how close it is to residential areas (some of the sites would be within a quarter mile of homes), the scale appears much larger than it would otherwise.
Cascade Wind, LLC is a subsidiary of First Wind, the Massachusetts based wind developer and operator that owns (and is developing) the project. First Wind was formerly known as UPC Wind, and currently operates wind projects in Maine, New York, and Hawaii. Multiple power purchasers have expressed interest in purchasing from the project if it is completed. Cascade Wind would connect to the Bonneville Power Administration's The Dalles—Hood River 115-kV transmission line that runs directly through the proposed site.
First Wind is trying to brand the Cascade Wind project as “renewable energy for Oregon's future.” They describe wind as “the fastest growing and cleanest energy in the world.” Moreover, they declare that “First Wind’s policy is to hire locally, creating construction and long-term operations and maintenance jobs.” They point out that tax revenues from the sale of power will infuse the local community with money for schools, public services, and infrastructure maintenance/development. Significantly, Cascade Wind claims it will be able do all of this while producing electricity at a competitive market price and producing no greenhouse gas emissions, no toxic pollutants, and using an insignificant amount of water to do so. From the perspective of First Wind, this project is clearly a win-win for everyone involved. Finally, they assert that “It is First Wind’s desire to supply local consumers with renewable energy.”
Public opposition to the project has arisen around three main issues: aesthetic impact on the Columbia River Gorge, the cumulative impact on bird, bat and other wildlife populations, and the direct impact on residents of Sevenmile Hill and the surrounding towns. Carolyn Wood, a local resident and opponent of the project, wrote to the BPA, “I believe allowing these wind turbins [sic] with in site [sic] of any of the key viewing areas of the Columbia River Gorg [sic] would be very short sited [sic] after all the work that has been done to preserve the views of and in the Gorge. I am very much in favor of wind energy but not there. And there is plenty of room in Eastern OR & WA where it will not impact the neighbors who live within sound [sic] and close proximity of them.” Claire Puchy, another local resident, raised concerns over the impact on birds, “As a professional in natural resources and wildlife management, I am particularly concerned about the impacts of the proposed wind farm on birds and bats in the area.”