Shell Wind Energy has applied to the county to build a major wind power project on remote ridgeline ranch lands about six miles south of Ferndale.
An application has been submitted to the Humboldt County Planning Department and awaits only a few pieces of information to be complete. The Bear River Wind Power Project would consist of 30 to 35 turbines generating 60 to 70 megawatts of power. That’s more than half of what the Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s King Salmon power plant generates, and is enough to supply 60,000 to 70,000 homes with electricity.
It would be the first major wind power project in the county, and comes as the state has begun an initiative to cut its emissions in part by asking utilities to develop clean and renewable power.
“It will definitely be a learning process for all of us,” said Senior Planner Alyson Hunter.
The 256-foot-tall turbines would run along Bear River Ridge, roughly east to west, with connecting cables laid underground to a new substation about seven miles south of Rio Dell. The substation would transmit power through above-ground power lines 7.3 miles to the PG&E regional transmission system in Rio Dell.
The turbines would generate 2 megawatts each with a blade swath that measures 262 to 285 feet in diameter. They’d be placed on ranch land 2,000 to 2,600 feet in elevation, leased from a handful of landowners for 30 years with two 10-year options to renew.
The project would require an environmental review through the California Environmental Quality Act, including public hearings. Shell is also reportedly planning to hold informational meetings on the issue.
A representative for Shell could not be reached by deadline, nor could the landowners’ agent, Joseph Russ IV.
The wind power project likely would not require an amendment to the county general plan, Hunter said, and would be decided by the Planning Commission unless appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
The application proposes three miles of new roads to build and service the project, and an additional five meteorological towers. It could be constructed in as little as eight months if it’s approved.
A Shell consultant studied wind patterns on Bear River Ridge last year to determine the feasibility of the project.
Mel Nordquist, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Eureka, said the ridge experiences plenty of wind, which is largely predictable and steady in the summertime, he said. Winter winds are more fickle and reliant on storms, he said.
“Up on those ridges, you would have particularly good, sustained winds,” Nordquist said.
By John Driscoll
20 March 2007
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