The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Over the last couple years we have witnessed a variety of alternative energy ventures examine our Valley for power or fuel generating facilities. Some of these entities have been tire kickers, inflated by the federal government's stimulus initiative that provides incentives for these operations to get off the ground. Other businesses seem like the real deal though and our office is working with several established companies that are working to develop energy projects in our area.
With wind farms to the north and south of us it would seem logical to see one of these projects gravitate towards Yakima County. We did support one company's efforts to evaluate areas southeast of Toppenish for a wind farm but so far nothing has come out of this investigation. While we have a lot of land with good wind patterns, much of it is controlled by the government or the Yakama Nation. This makes it harder for companies to find enough land to support a decent size wind farm. We are not ruling out a wind farm in Yakima County but nothing has come to fruition so far.
Our office recently hosted a company evaluating our area for solar power. The firm is looking at quite a few 30-50 acres sites for solar panel installations. This is the first time we have seen a solar energy developer look at the Valley. Power from solar panels is more expensive than other forms of green energy and wind turbines have dominated the development landscape in Washington State thus far. It is encouraging to see some interest in solar farms - time will tell if these facilities can find a home in the Yakima Valley.
New Vision has also worked with several companies interested in biomass driven energy facilities. These entities all hope to take advantage of our area's huge inventory of waste material. Some businesses are focused on building digesters to process cow manure. A couple other businesses have explored using wood waste from our forests at the western end of the county. Based on our work with these entities we are confident that someone will be stepping up to develop a biomass based energy facility. Who does this and when it happens are still a bit up in the air, but several companies are moving quickly as key federal incentives for green energy facilities expire next year.
After working with numerous companies on these green energy projects we are confident that at least a couple of these facilities will get established in Yakima County. We have all the important ingredients (sun, wind, biomass) to support power generating facilities and it is just a matter of time before one or more of these projects takes root locally. We are excited about the prospects to develop green energy facilities. These plants do not necessarily create a lot of jobs, but the employment opportunities created are typically family wage positions. Most of the green projects we are working with are also sizeable investments, so if they take hold they will generate a lot of new tax revenues for local government.