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Exiled wind turbine finds new home

Chased out of Deschutes County, the wind generator finds refuge on a local farm

by: Photo By Troy Foster - Stephen Hurn says his new windmill isn’t blight on the landscape.

News Editor
   July 9, 2003 — All Terry Lynch wanted to do was promote renewable energy, and maybe make a few bucks in the process.
    But when the Tumalo wiener dog farmer sought a permit to put the 75-foot windmill he purchased on his 15-acre farm, he says Deschutes County officials told him no way.
    “The commissioners, particularly Tom DeWolf, made a comment to me that the people that support this county are the Black Butte and the Sunriver types and don’t want to look at wind turbines,” Lynch alleges. “That about took all the wind out of my sails.”
    The turbine doesn’t have sails, but its props have the ability to generate 65 kilowatts of electricity per hour and enough stamina to pay for themselves after five years, its new owners say.
    The turbine has found refuge in Jefferson County with Stephen and Patsy Hurn, who own a 200-acre farm off Ashwood Lane just west of Madras.
    They purchased it from Lynch last year, and will now be the first Oregonians to operate a privately owned, single-unit wind generator that puts its power back into the electricity grid.
    It’s been ready for operation since a 110-foot crane raised it in January, but its new owners say the windmill has a new antagonist: the power company required by law to buy its juice.
    The Hurns say they’ve been trying to finalize their contract with PacifiCorp since the turbine went up, but the negotiations didn’t start twirling until they approached the state Public Utility Commission and the Oregon Office of Energy for help.
    “They can require them to buy the power from us, but apparently they don’t have to require them to make it easy,” says Patsy Hurn, who is better known as the Jefferson County Assessor.
    The Hurns say they’ve spun through countless hoops and hurdles that began when the first draft of the contract arrived in the mail. It was a boiler plate for a large cogeneration facility.
    “According to them, it’s been a headache because it’s the first one of its kind in the state that they’ve done,” Patsy Hurn says. “But I believe they’ve made it unnecessarily difficult for us.”
    Nevertheless, the wind turbine is inching closer to going on line.
    The energy generated will be fed into Pacific Power’s electricity grid.
    Stephen Hurn says the wind blows 18-hours a day on his farm, and the idea of making money off a natural resource is attractive at a time when he feels all the bills are going up.
    “And the price of hay stays the same or goes down,” Stephen Hurn says.
    If all goes well, the turbine might have company.
    “If this one works like we think it will, we might pick up some others,” says Stephen Hurn, hinting that a mini wind farm could be on the horizon.
    The turbine rotates automatically in the direction of the wind, which only has to be traveling 8 1/2 miles per hour to get the props spinning.
    The Hurns say surrounding neighbors gave their blessing to the towering sign of progress on.
    “I think it looks good,” Stephen Hurn says. “I don’t think it’s a blight on the landscape at all.”
    Deschutes County officials think otherwise, Terry Lynch claims. Their ordinances prohibit structures above 35 feet, unless they fall under the “power transmission tower” exemption, which apparently doesn’t apply to his former toy, Lynch says.
    “They think they’re going to be ugly and unsightly so somebody will complain,” he says.
    That’s OK with the Hurns, so says Stephen: “We’re glad to have it.”