August 28, 2009

Timber companies looking to sun, wind for future

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Timber companies and their unemployed workers are going green –renewable energy green – as the timber industry in Washington state continues to wither and die. Alternative energy projects involving wind and solar power, and some just plain alternatives – like producing products used in toothpaste and ice cream – are coming out of the companies that once pumped out logs, reports Arla Shepherd in High Country News.

Projects include participation in the largest solar plant ever proposed in the Northwest, the 400,000 photovoltaic panel Teanaway Solar Reserve in Kittitas County. Timber company American Forest Land Co. is leasing the project 400 acres of clear-cut land near Cle Elum, Wa. InvestigateWest also wrote about the Teanaway Researve in July.

“Since 2001, 16 wind projects — totaling nearly 1,600 megawatts — have sprung up in the state, which now ranks fifth in the nation for wind capacity. On Earth Day this year, Gov. Chris Gregoire authorized two pilot projects in eastern and western Washington that would experiment with converting wood waste into energy. And in the lower Kittitas Valley, Puget Sound Energy operates a small-scale solar project — 500 kilowatts from 3,000 panels — which has demonstrated that solar can work just fine even in the relatively cloudy Northwest.

— Rita Hibbard

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