Taking advantage of a new Oregon law that allows developers to build generating projects smaller than 105 MW without state approval, Tomen applied for a conditional use permit directly to Umatilla County in late December, which it expects to get in mid-summer. Umatilla County's state required comprehensive land use plan has been friendly to power generation development. In addition to the wind turbines, the county has nearly 2500 MW of gas combustion turbines installed or under development in the desert and farmlands along the Columbia River.
Tomen's Don Bain says all other permitting and agreements with farmers are nearly complete and the project is now awaiting the county's decision, as well as the extension of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), before it begins construction. "We've noted a few concerns regarding land use," Bain says. "Some people have asked: how much wind development is enough and how compatible with farming is wind?"
Yet he anticipates few hurdles in either the county process or the environmental studies, which Tomen is completing this month. Bain says the endangered Washington ground squirrel is less of a factor at this site than it was for FPL Energy at its Stateline project, which it had to downsize due to the squirrel's presence.
The Combine Hills Turbine Ranch takes advantage of a secondary ridgeline below Vansycle Ridge that will provide the turbines with a "downslope kind of wind," says Bain. "Where we have that condition, we get a slight acceleration in wind speed." The permit application contemplates a wide-range of turbine sizes, from 600 kW to 2.5 MW. That could mean as few as 41 turbines, or as many as 174. "We want to make the decision as late as possible," Bain says. "There is a lot of newer, larger hardware coming on the market and we want to remain flexible to take advantage of those opportunities."
Tomen Power USA is also involved in wind projects in California and at Foote Creek I in Wyoming. It is a branch of Japanese trading company and energy developer, Tomen Corp.