Members of the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council learned all about the proposed Helix Wind Power Facility - a 102-megawatt wind farm from Iberdrola Renewables, Inc.
Iberdrola is the same company that put up the 300-megawatt Stateline Wind Energy Center on the Oregon-Washington border north of Helix in 2001.
Iberdrola is still deciding between using 1.5 megawatt and 3 megawatt towers, said John White, the Oregon Department of Energy energy facility analyst who gave the presentation at the EFSC meeting Friday morning. He showed two different layout plans for the two different turbine heights. There were fewer of the larger towers and they were more spaced out
Along with the turbines, the wind farm will have two meteorological towers and 16.2 miles of new access roads.
The wind farm will connect with either Bonneville Power Administration transmission lines or PacifiCorp lines - that, too is still being determined, White said.
About a year ago Iberdrola began looking into the Helix Wind Project and in August it submitted its first preliminary application to the siting council. It submitted a draft proposed order on May 1 and on May 27 held a public meeting in Helix about the project.
The wind project will require some modifications to local roads, to allow for a larger turning radius of some of the equipment.
Helix Mayor Jack Bascomb said at the public hearing that he was concerned about the road modifications, but said he's met with Iberdrola and believed most of the problems could be worked out.
"He did say that the city is interested in 'some form of compensation' for the inconvenience to the city arising from nuisance congestion and various disturbance associated with construction and heavy equipment moving though the city," White said.
White said the EFSC hasn't required companies like Iberdrola to pay such costs, and he and the department of energy didn't recommend doing it this time.
White said the proposed order for the wind farm makes preparations for if the company pulls out, so Iberdrola or another operating company doesn't leave a graveyard of broken down windmills on the hillsides. The proposed order requires a $6.1 million bond, which will theoretically be enough to return the area back to the way it was before the windmills were there.
But that bond won't be required for 10 years.
Nancy Reese Duff, another woman who attended the public hearing, said then she thought the bond should be required from the start, White told the council. She was also concerned about noise from the turbines, as was another Helix-area resident, Tim Smith, who also attended the public hearing in May.
White said the plan passes several tests, including the ambient test, meaning the sound of the wind farm doesn't rise higher than the ambient noise at the sight by more than 10 decibels. The background noise there is 26 decibels, so the limit is 36.
White showed a map with contour lines for sound levels around the proposed site area. There were a few houses within the contour with noise at 36 decibels, and some outside. There weren't any within the 50 decibels range, close to the turbines. He said the wind farm, with 60 turbines, could be built to meet this standard.
In the section of White's presentation pertaining to studies of birds and raptors in the region, studies found fatality rates of less than 1 percent, sometimes as little as a tenth of a percent.
When it came to endangered species, White said there is a colony on the Washington Ground Squirrel in what White called the "analysis area." They are near the site but not in it. There is a colony near the east side of the area but outside the site boundary. There's a recommended 785-foot buffer area, some of which does overlap the site boundary.
White said the colony area would be surveyed for construction to avoid the colony and buffer zone.
"The species does migrate around and move in the landscape," White said. "Generally they move around in the spring."
The plan for the wind farm also requires a continued survey of the squirrels for the first two years.