Shell discussing wind energy project in Ferndale, Rio Dell; county still waiting on company to address transport concerns
Shell WindEnergy Inc. is still trying to figure out how it would move wind turbines hundreds of feet tall up to Bear River Ridge for a proposed wind energy project.
The company recently met with the cities of Ferndale and Rio Dell to provide an update on the project, which is in the middle of environmental review.
The 50-megawatt project would use 25 wind turbines along the ridge south of Ferndale, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already said it will affect protected marbled murrelets. The service was working with Shell to develop a habitat conservation plan meant to reduce and mitigate harm to the birds.
Humboldt County Senior Planner John Miller said the county is waiting on Shell to do a more detailed analysis of how the turbine components will make it to the ridge before completing the draft environmental impact report. The company was proposing to use Monument Road or Mattole Road.
”The trucks are fairly long, so they need to narrow down what roads need to be improved,” he said, adding that Pacific Gas and Electric is also involved, working on how power will get to the regional grid. Miller said he expects more detail on the proposed project in about a month.
According to a county notice, some five miles of road would be built for use during construction.
Three weather towers, a power-collection system, a substation and 12 miles of new power lines would also be constructed. Over the entire construction period,
it’s expected that large trucks would make 850 trips to deliver components. Another 2,500 trucks would be needed for construction.
At a recent Rio Dell City Council meeting, council members requested City Manager Ron Henrickson draft a letter to Shell officials discussing possible concerns in regard to the project, said Miller, who attended the meeting.
Miller said members of the council believe the transportation of materials related to the project might have a negative affect on the city.
”There could be several hundred large, overweight trucks going through the city,” Miller said. “That could affect drainage and water pipes under the roads.”
Ferndale City Manager Jay Parrish said most of the council’s concerns involve the impact of transportation, but the city is open to hearing about alternatives to the transportation routes.
He said the representatives from Shell that visited the council provided updated information, including that a slight upgrade of the PG&E facility in Rio Dell may be needed and that the company is exploring the option of using helicopters to bring in components.
”I think the council in general approves of alternative energy systems, but when it’s in your backyard, you need to look at it real close,” Parrish said.
According to the draft project description, the wind turbines under consideration for the project have an approximate tower height of 263 to 306 feet and rotor diameters that range from 263 to 306 feet with a total height of 395 to 416 feet.
”They’re talking pretty big things at this point,” Parrish said.
A call and email to Shell representatives were not returned.
To see the draft documents related to the proposed projects, go to www.co.humboldt.ca.us/planning/bear-river/default.asp.