The need to reduce light pollution from wind energy facilities is real

The debate over alternative energy facilities, including the massive windmills that decorate eastern rural Washington is nothing new. It's a debate that continues to stir emotions on both sides of the equation. You may recall the legislation I introduced last year that would have allowed rural communities to have a voice in the clean energy facility siting process.

Developing a solid strategy to create a quality, clean, and transmittable energy grid for both the short- and long-term is essential for all Washingtonians. But very little thought has been given to what rural counties will look like in thirty years at the end of the clean energy transition.

Citizens who live in rural areas are becoming frustrated and discouraged that their viewsheds are being disturbed and are concerned environmental damage is occurring. They are also becoming more frustrated with the light pollution emitted from these enormous windmills.

That's the focus of a new bill this year sponsored and driven by Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, which would help resolve this concern. I am cosponsoring the bill, along with my seatmate, Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla.

House Bill 1173 would require new and existing wind energy facilities to mitigate light pollution using aircraft detection lighting systems – or through alternative forms of light mitigation if federal requirements preclude the installation of an aircraft detection lighting system at a facility.

The bill has already passed committee and is waiting for a vote on the House floor.

But are these lights really a problem? The answer is yes. The red blinking lights emitted from the wind turbines along the Gardena Hills all the way to Jump off Joe just behind Kennewick have had an enormous effect on our viewshed in the evening skies. They have also had a negative impact on our cities throughout the 16th Legislative District.

Furthermore, these blinking windmill lights and other impacts from alternative energy facilities have the potential to affect the mental health of nearby residents and hurt the tourism industry in the area.

Yet, those of us who live in these parts of the state have no say in the matter. We have no choice but to stand by and watch more and more of these wind turbines congest our viewshed. In fact, another wind farm is already planned for Horse Heaven Hills. 

And not only do we see these large windmill blades spinning throughout the day, but we also must put up with the continuous blinking lights disrupting our eastern Washington skies at night.

That's why Rep. Connors and I introduced House Bill 1173. If passed, the legislation will help remedy this ongoing light pollution problem for both old and new windfarms. These aircraft detection lighting systems would turn the lights on when planes are detected nearby and shut them off when planes are a safe distance away.

Those of us who live in rural eastern Washington want to be heard when it comes to alternative energy facilities and sources. We love the open land in our cities and communities. It's why we choose to live here. It only seems fair we should have a say in how that land is used and how our viewsheds are affected.

This bill is a step in the right direction and one we know the people in the Tri-Cities area would appreciate. It's time to mitigate the light pollution from these wind turbines and give us back our beautiful night skies.

Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla represents Washington's 16th Legislative District.

As printed in the Prosser Record-Bulletin

State Representative Mark Klicker, 16th Legislative District
410 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000