Up to 49 wind turbines could line 6Â½ miles of ridgeline near Burney – and might be visible from parts of downtown Redding.
If approved, the $180 million Hatchet Ridge Wind Project would harness up to 125 megawatts of electricity at the site of the 1992 Fountain Fire, seven miles west of Burney and north of Highway 299. The turbines could reach 500 feet tall.
The wind farm would produce about 300,000 megawatt hours a year, or enough to power roughly 15,000 households a year, said project manager Scott Piscitello of Renewable Energy Systems America Developments Inc., which submitted its proposal this summer.
The electricity would likely be sold to a utility under a long-term contract, but the wind farm would be a major tax contributor for Shasta County, he said.
“I believe that initially we would be the second highest property tax payer in the county, after Pacific Gas & Electric,” Piscitello said.
Altering eastern Shasta County’s skyline as well as the turbines’ potential to accidentally kill birds are among residents’ primary concerns.
But overall, many support the idea, including Cindy Dodds of Burney, executive director of the nonprofit TriCounty Community Network.
“I think they’ll look very cutting-edge cool,” she said.
Dodds couldn’t speak on behalf of TriCounty, but heard Piscitello’s recent presentation to Burney Chamber of Commerce board members and said that as a resident, she considers the project “smart and progressive.”
Besides being an earth-friendly energy source, she pictures the windmills as a novelty that might draw tourism to the Burney area. “I think it’s going to create a little buzz about us, and that’s a good thing. It’ll be like what the (Sundial) Bridge has done for the city of Redding.”
Renewable Energy has started or completed construction on more than 36 wind projects in six countries, creating a combined generating capacity of more than 1,300 megawatts, the study reads.
The Hatchet Ridge wind farm’s three-bladed turbines would stand on tubular steel towers up to 328 feet tall, according to an initial environmental study submitted to Shasta County.
From ground level to a blade tip’s highest point, the wind turbines would rise as high as 503 feet, the study reads.
Piscitello said they could be shorter, depending on size availability and what is determined to be the best height for capturing wind there.
The Hatchet Mountain ridgeline can be seen from places in downtown Redding, such as Mercy Medical Center, up Placer Street, and at Sacramento and West streets, residents said.
Given the prominence of Hatchet Mountain and the height of each turbine, the initial report reads, the project will be visible from portions of the surrounding area.
But it’s not yet known how big the off-white windmills would appear from the 35-mile distance to Redding, said Bill Walker, Shasta County senior planner.
“It will be visible from quite a distance in all directions, really,” he said.
Renewable Energy’s Piscitello said he doubts people in Redding will be able to make out the turbines.
“There’s a difference between a line of sight and being able to see something with the naked eye,” he said. “I guess, theoretically, we can all see Mars, but I don’t know if you can see Mars.”
Photo simulations will be part of the project’s required environmental impact report, the initial report reads.
Burney resident and businessman Bob Chibante said he can spot portions of Hatchet Ridge when he drives east on Highway 299 just past Churn Creek Road, as well as from Interstate 5 between Red Bluff and Redding.
But he’s not worried about seeing 50 wind turbines or less.
“We’ve pretty much been assured that it’s not an Altamont Pass,” Chibante said. Altamont pass holds 5,400 windmills, according to a federal Government Accountability Office study.
And, Dodd pointed out, Hatchet Ridge is a mountain setting, not open, exposed hills. The area is already the site of cell phone and radio antennas. She is not worried about either Redding’s or Burney’s view of the turbines, she said.
“My expectation is that it’s not going to look like a series of monstrosities on the hill, and I think it’s a fabulous use of nature.”
Chibante also heard Piscitello’s presentation and said he’s curious to see the project’s photo simulations, and also wants a sound study done on what areas would hear or feel the turbines and when. Another study to determine what birds and bats fly through and nest in the area is under way.
Chibante’s main interest is that Shasta County or the project provides Burney something for having the wind farm in its backyard – “that they don’t forget us again,” he said.
County Supervisor Glenn Hawes, who represents the Burney area, expects money would flow into Shasta County through property taxes, and he supports clean energy.
“All of our schools benefit when we have increased property tax values. It helps everything in the way of county government,” he said.
In general, property tax is 1 percent of a property’s value, Jim Langum, county deputy assessor-recorder said. He hadn’t crunched numbers on the Hatchet Ridge project, but said its machines are likely to draw $1.8 million in property tax in its first years, based on the project’s construction cost. However, that figure will depreciate over the life-expectancy of the turbines, Langum said.
Piscitello said the machines are expected to last 20 to 25 years.
After a six- to 12-month construction period, the wind farm would create six to 10 permanent jobs, the initial study reads.
Earlier this month, the county was preparing to send out proposal requests to environmental consultants, and will receive their proposals on drafting an environmental impact report about a month after.
It will be at least six weeks before the county sends a notice of preparation and schedules a public meeting, Walker said last week.
Dodds said Renewable Energy sounds like it wants to be a good neighbor.
“Given fossil fuel rates, anything that we can do to access energy from the environment, and have as little environmental impact as this, I think is fabulous,” she said. “It’s clean energy. How can anyone think that’s a bad thing?”
By Kimberly Ross, Record Searchlight
Reporter Kimberly Ross can be reached at 225-8339 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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