Wind wire: Radar Ridge opposition

Radar Ridge, the first wind farm proposed for western Washington State, has run into opposition because of potential impacts on marbled murrelets, small seabirds listed as an endangered species since 1992.

The murrelets travel twice daily between their inland nests and the Pacific Ocean, where they dive to catch small fish. While opponents of the 32-turbine project say that Radar Ridge is directly in the flight path of the birds, two recent independent studies conducted by EcoSystems Technology and Hamer Environmental suggest that the site shows very little bird activity near the proposed turbine locations and any potential flight corridors are at an elevation well above the height of turbine blades. The development is an undertaking by four public utility districts and Energy Northwest, a not-for-profit state agency comprising 27 public power members. The wind farm is projected at up to 82 MW on land leased from the state's Department of Natural Resources and named for its Cold War era role as a lookout point for Russian bombers. Turbines have not yet been selected as the utilities shop for best prices in a buyers' market, says Rochelle Olson, public affairs spokeswoman for Energy Northwest, who adds that federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds have been applied for to help fund the project. "Right now we're looking to get our permit application in with the US Fish & Wildlife Service," Olson says. "The participating utilities are driving the production schedule, but the project could be in operation as early as fall of 2011." The state of Washington requires that utilities obtain 15% of their electricity from new renewable resources by 2020.