Renewable power is a-blowin’ in the wind, my friends. When agencies like Hood River County and groups of farmers are exploring the idea of raising wind turbine towers, you know that wind power projects are on the cusp of becoming a real movement in the Columbia Gorge.
First came the private companies with their projects in Sherman County near Condon and, recently, in Klickitat County. Now, the idea seems to be catching: A group of Wasco County wheat farmers are proposing a 10-megawatt wind power project for Summit Ridge, east of The Dalles. The proposal follows four years of gathering wind data. And Hood River County officials have voiced the possibility of raising wind turbines on county forest land (there are 30,000 acres of it), as part of an effort to generate new county revenue.
Who knows who else might be interested in the potential of wind energy in Oregon? But if youfollow the wind, then look for towers along the south-central Oregon coast and in windblown, wide-open southeast Oregon. Across the river, watch for more wind towers in eastern Klickitat County and northeast of Yakima.
So there are many breezy places still untapped — most of them, actually. There’s plenty of wind to go around, too. According to the Renewable Northwest Project, Oregon has the capacity to build 4,900 megawatts of wind power generation, and Washington 3,700. That’s roughly equal, together, to Idaho’s capacity — but it’s nothing compared to the estimated 116,000 megawatts of wind in Montana.
By comparison, The Dalles Dam generates something like 1,800 megawatts. Harnessing that potential wind capacity would be a monumental project — figure 70 large wind turbine towers per 100 megawatts, or more than 3,400 towers to capture the Oregon capacity. That’s at existing tower size, using the Condon-area towers, with their 216-foot diameter blades. The Wasco County farmers are talking about towers with blade diameters of 324 feet; their project would start with four of these monsters.