Sierra Club statement on opening of Shepherds Flat wind farm

ARLINGTON, OR – Today, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign welcomed the formal opening of the new 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm near Arlington, Oregon, as a further evidence of the U.S.’s growing ability to develop renewable energy and move away from fossil fuels.

“This pioneering new wind farm shows the viability of renewable energy as a source of power,” said Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “With investments in wind energy across the country now returning dividends in the form of new jobs, new energy, and cleaner air, projects like the Shepherds Flat wind farm show it is possible to transition from dirty fossil fuels like coal to cleaner sources of energy.”

Work on the Shepherds Flat project began in 2009. More than 400 construction jobs were created to site the wind turbines and build roads and electrical infrastructure. The Shepherds Flat project will continue to provide 45 full-time jobs for Oregon’s Gilliam and Morrow Counties, in addition to agricultural jobs which will continue on the farmland at the project site.

“With today’s opening, Oregon continues its leadership in renewable energy and now boasts one of the largest wind farms in the world, generating enough power for 235,000 homes,” said Dave Hamilton, Director for Clean Energy of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “These turbines were built by an American manufacturer and installed by American workers in full compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. To see them generating power is to know our country has the determination and the know-how to be an energy leader and move away from dirty coal. Because Shepherds Flat is sited on previously disturbed and actively used farmland and near existing transmission lines, the project will have lower impacts on local wildlife than wind energy developments sited in more environmentally sensitive areas such as deserts and pristine wildlands.”

Nationwide, wind energy capacity has doubled since 2008 and now generates more than 50,000 megawatts, or enough to power 13 million homes.

“Federal and state policies have helped create a wind boom in the U.S., and families and businesses are reaping the rewards in the form of cleaner air, new jobs, and less carbon pollution that disrupts our climate,” said Barbara Boyle, Senior Campaign Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign.  “By meeting energy demand that would otherwise have required power plants to burn dirty fossil fuels like coal, new renewable energy projects across the country are preventing thousands of tons of mercury, arsenic, and carbon pollution from being emitted into the air and damaging human health and the environment.”

According to estimates from the developers, power generated at the Shepherds Flat wind farm will avoid about 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted per year, roughly equivalent to the emissions from 260,000 passenger vehicles.