This month one of the biggest proposed sustainable business projects in the world cleared another hurdle, when it secured a $1.3 billion stimulus loan from the US Department of Energy. Once complete the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, to be located in eastern Oregon, will consist of 338 wind turbines capable of generating 845 megawatts of electricity—more than the generating capacity of the state’s existing Boardman Coal Plant. A power purchase agreement for electricity from this mammoth sustainable business project has already been granted to the utility Southern California Edison.
Though facing fewer regulatory hurdles than the famous Cape Wind project, the Shepherds Flat Farm has already had to navigate some difficult waters. Earlier this year the pentagon put an effective hold on the project due to concerns that the wind turbines would interfere with the workings of radar systems in the area. After a public outcry and pressure from Oregon’s congressional delegation, the Defense Department agreed to implement measures that will protect radar systems while allowing the wind project to move forward.
In a statement about the Shepherd’s Flat loan, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu pointed to his department’s support for the wind far as an example of the Obama administration’s commitment to increase renewable energy generation while creating jobs in sustainable business. Once it is up and running, the Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm is expected to employ thirty-five people in Oregon’s sparsely populated rural counties. During the construction phase it will employ around 400 people. Because the turbines are located on private land, $2.7 million per year will also be parceled out to more than twenty rural landowners as compensation for placing turbines on their property. Finally, the Shepherds Flat Farm will pay out $130 million in local taxes that support city and county government services.
Of course the giant wind farm also comes with huge environmental benefits. It is expected to avoid more than a million tons of carbon emissions each year—the equivalent of taking 212,141 cars off of the road. Yet it’s largely because of the economic benefits of sustainable business that Shepherds Flat has become so popular with Oregonians of both political parties. When the pentagon was threatening to derail the wind farm, both Oregon’s democratic US senators, as well as Republican Representative Greg Walden, interjected within the federal government on the project’s behalf.
Will successful completion of the Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm pave the way for more truly large-scale renewable energy projects in the United States? It certainly seems possible; this sustainable business endeavor is an encouraging example of how clean energy can cut down the need for carbon emissions while repowering rural communities. With state programs to encourage renewable energy and federal loans to help get such projects off the ground, we may start to see giant wind farms like Shepherd’s Flat pop up across the rural United States.
Article by Nick Engelfried, appearing courtesy Justmeans.