Plans scrapped for wind farm on Steens Mountain

A wind energy project in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area has been scrapped but a project in nearby Harney County will move forward.

A wind energy project in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area has been scrapped but a project in nearby Harney County will move forward.

Vancouver-based Columbia Energy Partners and its financial affiliate CEP Funding have officially abandoned plans to develop two of three wind energy projects planned on private property in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area, dubbed East Ridge and West Ridge.

The companies will push forward with development, construction and commercial operation of a third wind farm, the Echanis Project, located in nearby Harney County, outside the Steens Management area.

The decision follows pushback from environmental groups over the projects, including the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Audubon Society of Portland, which have argued they would have harmed wildlife and recreation on the north end of the 50-mile mountain, which peaks at 9,733 feet above the Alvord Desert. The groups have locked horns with developers since 2008.

Had the projects moved forward, East Ridge and West Ridge were slated to develop up to 208 megawatts of wind power capacity. Known collectively as CEP, the companies estimated the projects would have provided 200 green jobs in Harney County, where the unemployment rate is 14.4 percent.

Chris Crowley, president of Columbia Energy Partners, said environmental factors combined with business and regulatory issues to prompted CEP to abandon pursuit of East and West Ridge and concentrate on the 104-megawatt Echanis project.

“Echanis has a power purchase agreement, permit to construct, transmission, etc. We are choosing to focus on the project we can build now, and on the promising project outside an area that has proven sensitive for a host of reasons. But wind capacity, cost to permit, sage grouse and a host of other factors go into that decision,” Crowley said in an email.

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Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.

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