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Kempthorne taps Boisean for wind panel

Boisean Rich Rayhill has been named to a new advisory committee to study ways wind power producers can reduce their impact on wildlife.

Rayhill, vice president of the Seattle-based company Ridgeline Energy, was named to the committee by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

He will join 21 others who will meet first in February and about four times a year to come up with guidelines to protect wildlife.

Wind farms can kill birds and bats when the animals fly into the turbines.

This isn’t the first effort to implement guidelines for the wind industry.

In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed interim voluntary guidelines and allowed the industry to comment over a two year time period. Based on those comments, the Department of the Interior decided more feedback was needed to better develop the guidelines.

“By some estimates, wind power could provide clean and renewable electricity to meet up to 20 percent of the nation’s energy needs,” Kempthorne said in statement. “The committee will help examine issues, such as site selection and turbine design, so we can develop wind resources while protecting wildlife.”

Rayhill said he will represent the interests of the smaller wind developers, who may not have the resources needed if rules to protect wildlife become too restrictive.

“It’s a necessary voice to have,” he said. “Too many restrictions could kill a small wind project.”

Ridgeline Energy developed Idaho’s first large-scale wind farm near Idaho Falls in 2005 and is developing several other projects throughout seven Western states.

In January, Rayhill received Gov. Butch Otter’s Renewable Energy Award in recognition for his contributions to the growth of wind energy in Idaho.

“Ridgeline is very pleased to have been invited to participate in this important undertaking,” Steve Voorhees, Ridgeline CEO, said in a statement. “Wind turbine siting must be undertaken in a responsible manner to ensure proper care of the environment and use of public lands so that wind energy can be harnessed to help meet our nation’s energy needs.”

Rayhill said wind energy will play an important role in providing Idaho with its electricity needs and could have a positive impact on Idaho’s economy.

He points to Texas as an example.

“In 1995 there were no wind farms in Texas,” he said. “In 2007, Texas has 4,000 megawatts, $7 billion in capital investment and had created 12,000 jobs in the wind business.”

By Ken Dey

Idaho Statesman

19 December 2007