Anybody who’s passed more than a few years in Baker County knows this place has an abundance of sunshine and wind.
It’s little surprise, then, that proponents of both wind and solar power have begun to make investments here.
About 30 wind turbines have been erected in the hills around Huntington over the past several years.
An Oakland, California, company plans to build the county’s first solar power farm next year near Unity, and it has started the application process for a second, larger operation near Baker City.
David Fitzgerald, a project manager for the company, Enerpac, said there is “a lot of potential” in Eastern Oregon for solar power.
We’re intrigued by this burgeoning technology.
At least in the short term the potential benefits for Baker County are likely to be in dollars rather than in kilowatts.
Enerpac plans to sell power from its solar farms to Idaho Power Company, which serves only a small percentage of Baker County residents.
(Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative has the much larger share, and OTEC buys its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration.)
But Enerpac will make lease payments to the owners of private property where the solar panels are slated to be installed. This could give landowners a reliable source of revenue for land that is otherwise suited only for livestock grazing.
Renewable energy projects also generate tax revenue for Baker County.
County Assessor Kerry Savage said the windfarms on private land (the county’s first wind development, owned by Randy Joseph, is on public land) could produce up to $300,000 in taxes annually, although the owner has appealed the valuation set by the Oregon Department of Revenue.
Whether solar panels or wind turbines are a blight on the landscape is a subjective matter, of course.
But there’s no disputing that solar panels are considerably shorter, and so easier to “hide” in the county’s rumpled topography.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.