Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility


ust a few miles outside Ellensburg, the wind farm lies up in the hills and provides energy for much of Kittitas County.

Nick Jahnke, Senior Reporter

If you were to drive about 25 minutes east of Ellensburg on Vantage Highway, you would begin to notice the pillars of wind turbines looming in the hills. On the north side of the highway, these turbines belong to the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, owned by Puget Sound Energy (PSE). According to Wild Horse Program Coordinator Andrea Crawford, the facility has been producing clean, renewable energy since 2006.

Crawford said that after expanding the program in 2009, the facility now boasts 149 individual wind turbines. Combined, they can power an average of 60,000 to 70,000 homes annually. Crawford explained that they use “homes” as the unit of measurement because it’s easier to picture, but in fact the facility powers large businesses as well as homes. The output of energy can also be quantified using megawatts as a unit. Wild Horse produces 273 megawatts a year on average, which makes it the second highest producer in Washington behind Windy Point Wind Farm in Klickitat County, which produces 400 megawatts.

Wild Horse also employs two solar panel arrays. The first, smaller array consists of 315 panels, which can produce a peak of 52 kilowatts of energy and provides all the necessary power to Wild Horse’s visitor center. The second array is larger, with 2,408 panels, capable of producing up to 500 kilowatts. According to Crawford, the larger array is used more for research and development since the energy it produces is not as cost effective as that of the wind turbines.

Crawford said that they do not expect any more expansion in terms of adding extra wind turbines. She said that they have shifted their focus to improving the technology, which includes finding ways to make the turbines lighter, more efficient producers of energy.

“We’ve used the best, windiest ridges at this point,” Crawford said.

The thing that sets Wild Horse apart from other wind farms in the U.S. is the educational and recreational activities they host. According to Crawford, it is the only wind farm in the nation that offers educational tours of the facility as well as recreational activities like hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching and hunting. Tours of the facility are held twice a day, every day, between April and November. Recreational activities require an access permit which is available on the Wild Horse website.  

According to Wild Horse Senior Wind Resource Advisor Jennifer Diaz, Wild Horse is home to all kinds of wildlife, ranging from eagles to rattlesnakes. She said that due to the sheer size of the  10,000 acre property, there are multiple wildlife habitats which are easily disturbed. These habitats require a heightened level of care, so Diaz regularly works with departments like Fish and Wildlife to ensure they are keeping the nature of Wild Horse safe.

“We are the largest private landowner in Kittitas County, and that’s huge, so we have a big responsibility for managing this land,” Diaz said.

According to Diaz, three Wild Horse employees are being selected to become trained drone pilots. They plan to use the drones to inspect the blades of the wind turbines, which would be safer and more efficient. They are also in the process of obtaining an eagle permit, which would allow them to safely remove eagles from the property if need be.

Wild Horse isn’t the only wind farm PSE owns in Washington. According to PSE’s website, they also operate a 11,000 acre farm on Hopkins Ridge, located about 300 miles southeast of Seattle and another on Lower Snake River, which is located about 12 miles west of Pomeroy, Garfield County.