A renewable energy developer says it will prepare an environmental impact statement for a large wind and solar power project in south-central Washington.
Scout Clean Energy withdrew Monday its application for an expedited review by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, a process open to power projects without a significant environmental impact.
The council had yet to make that determination, but the Colorado company acknowledged in a letter to the council manager, Sonia Bumpus, that it would likely have to address environmental impacts.
The 1,150-megawatt project — by far the largest renewable energy plan ever presented to the council — would disturb shrub-steppe habitat.
The company is confident the Horse Heaven Wind Farm will pass an environmental review, Scout spokeswoman Javon Smith said. The study will assure that the public has a chance to comment, she said.
“We want to make sure people are involved and have every opportunity to weigh in,” she said.
Final approval, with or without an environmental impact statement, will rest with Gov. Jay Inslee, based on the council’s recommendations. Inslee has made renewable energy a pillar of his climate agenda.
Scout proposes to install solar panels and as many as 244 wind turbines in Benton County, near the Tri-Cities. The turbines and panels would help the state achieve carbon-free electricity, according to Scout.
Scout has leased thousands of acres from farmers and ranchers. The leases will provide steady income, and the project won’t take much land, according to a wheat farmer speaking on behalf of landowners.
The proposal has run into opposition from local officials. Pasco port commissioners passed a resolution opposing the project, calling the Tri-Cities’ wide-open spaces and unobstructed ridges “iconic features.”
Almost all wind projects are in southeastern Washington, but environmental justice means no group should bear a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences, the resolution states.
Scout Energy, owned by investment firm Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, has already submitted lengthy environmental reports to the state council.
One report suggests the company could make up for disturbing wildlife in various ways, including by paying the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife a fee. The money could be used by the department to buy more land.
The company has leased 72,295 acres and anticipates 6,860 would be permanently occupied by the wind and solar project, with the rest available for current uses, including farming.