Descending into Ellensburg, it’s impossible to miss the towering windmills over the horizon of Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility high in the hills. With a peak capacity of 273 megawatts, the remarkable 11,000-acre facility demonstrates clean energy solutions designed to meet growing power demands.
“As the state’s largest and oldest utility, we are proud to keep the lights on and the heat running for more than 1.5 million customers,” says PSE VP of Clean Energy Strategy Josh Jacobs. “In just a few short years, we’ve seen the devastating impacts of climate change worldwide and here in the Pacific Northwest. We know we need to act swiftly, and that’s why we’re determined to lead the way in the transition to clean energy.”
When Washington passed the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) in 2019, a commitment was made to have an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. PSE has advocated for some of the country’s most ambitious clean energy policies. “To comply with CETA and meet our own goals, we’re undergoing one of the most significant transformations in our history and possibly of any utility in the country,” says Jacobs.
Take a Tour of Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility
The electricity produced at Wild Horse Wind Facility is harnessed using wind and solar energy while minimizing environmental impacts. On average, each of the 149 turbines can produce enough electricity to power 440 homes or over 1,300 homes in high winds. Standing 351 feet tall, weighing 257 tons, and with a 264-foot swept blade diameter larger than a 747 airplane’s wingspan, these beacons of innovation create electricity in winds from nine to 56 miles per hour.
For an immersive understanding of renewable energy, Puget Sound Energy established a fascinating visitor’s center atop Whiskey Dick Mountain. Guests can get an up-close and personal experience of the science of renewable energy from April to November. The center is a fun learning experience for all ages with interactive and educational exhibits, while helpful staff provide engaging information.
Informative and exciting guided tours of the grounds and displays surrounding the visitor center offer an insider’s look at the intricate workings of power generated by wind and solar. Visitors can learn more about the layout of the wind farm, the speeds and patterns of wind, and the economics of solar and wind power, and even go inside the base of a wind turbine on a guided tour while discovering how renewable energy is produced.
After exploring the fascinating Renewable Energy Center, it’s impossible not to appreciate the process of transforming nature’s power to fuel the future.
The Future of Clean Energy with Puget Sound Energy
As the Pacific Northwest’s largest utility owner of wind power, wind and solar currently comprise about 12% of PSE’s electric generation. It operates three large wind farms in the state, including Wild Horse, plus Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility in Columbia County, and its largest wind operation, the Lower Snake River Wind Facility, in Garfield and Columbia County. There’s even more in PSE’s portfolio, which includes wind energy purchases.
“We recently announced a 15-year agreement with Invenergy’s Vantage Wind Energy Center, enabling us to acquire 90 MW of clean energy per year,” says Jacobs. “We also have started receiving 350 MW of wind energy from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC’s Clearwater Wind Project in Montana. On top of that, we have started working on the expansion of our Lower Snake River Wind Facility and will break ground next year on constructing Beaver Creek, a new wind farm in Stillwater County, Montana.”
Other projects include the Skookumchuck Wind Facility, which sends renewable energy to PSE through the Green Direct Program. This pioneering initiative empowers PSE’s corporate and governmental customers, including cities and state agencies, to procure their power from a dedicated, local, renewable source, ensuring a stable and cost-effective solution.
PSE is also consistently looking for ways to expand its solar footprint, including a recent power purchase agreement (PPA) with Avangrid at Lund Hill Solar Farm, the state’s largest utility-scale solar farm, allowing for more commercial and governmental customers.
Puget Sound Energy’s Commitment to Resilient Clean Energy
While large-scale projects are critical to providing clean energy, the future of power will be more local and two-way.
“Distributed energy resources (DERs) such as rooftop and ground solar and batteries that are sited in and benefit local communities will also have an important role in meeting our collective goals,” says Jacobs. “An example of this is our community solar program. PSE’s first community solar site was developed in 2021 in partnership with Olympia High School, and we have since launched five other sites across our service area. One of the key benefits of DERs is that they can provide greater resilience to extreme weather events.”
With Puget Sound Energy’s goal of clean energy solutions, projects like the Wild Horse Wind Facility utilize nature’s power to generate clean, renewable energy. It is an example of human innovation, adapting to changing needs, and an up-close look at a future powered by wind and sun.
PSE recently filed an update of its Clean Energy Implementation Plan with Washington’s Utilities and Transportation Commission. It will nearly double its clean energy portfolio by the end of 2025, up from 34% in 2020 to about 60% in 2025. “Based on our progress so far, we’re currently on track to meet or exceed our CETA obligation to achieve 80% clean or non-emitting energy by 2030 and 100% by 2045,” says Jacobs.
Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility
25905 Vantage Highway, Ellensburg