Long Battle Ends with Approval of Nolin Hills Renewable Energy Project

Brand Story – After a multi-year battle, the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) unanimously approved a site certificate for the Nolin Hills renewable energy facility. This decision represents an important milestone in the development of renewable wind energy in our state.

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The Nolin Hills Project is proposed by Capital Power, a Canadian energy developer. It will be built in Umatilla County about 10 miles west of Pendleton and will include both wind and solar energy generation with a nameplate capacity of 600 megawatts, along with battery storage facilities. The market for the output is likely to be strong. Several large northwest utilities are currently planning for large acquisitions of new renewables soon because of growing demand from high energy users like data centers, and the need to meet increased minimum renewable energy standards looming in 2030.

Umatilla County contested the project based on a County ordinance that requires a two-mile setback between wind turbines and residences. Capital Power had previously negotiated waivers of any setbacks with affected property owners, and no turbine is planned within 1.25 miles of any residence, but the ordinance did not allow the two-mile limit to be waived. At EFSC, Capital Power contended that the ordinance did not apply because the mandatory setbacks were not consistent with Oregon’s statewide land use planning goals. Department of Energy staff agreed, and ultimately EFSC did as well.

A final order from EFSC is expected in August. Unless an appeal is filed with the Oregon Supreme Court within 60 days after the site certificate was issued, the developer can start pre-construction activities. The next step for Capital Power is to secure interconnection rights to the crowded northwest power grid. If ultimately built, Nolin Hills will be a watershed renewable energy facility for Oregon, demonstrating how wind, solar, and battery storage can be combined to provide a reliable and steady source of clean and green power.