Developers are hoping you won’t see one of the largest building projects in Idaho history.
They are hoping, however, that Nevada residents will reap the bulk of the project’s rewards.
In the next two years, the first of nearly 200 planned wind turbines could begin to gently spin on seldom seen federal, state and private lands, hidden by hills just west of U.S. Highway 93 between Twin Falls and Jackpot, Nev.
Though most of the turbines will be in Idaho, a Nevada utility has first dibs on the electricity they’ll produce. The farm could be one of the largest of its kind in the entire Northwest.
Nevada Power, a Sierra Pacific Resources company, is in talks with Renewable Energy Systems America Developments to buy 200 megawatts from the project, called China Mountain. Anything over 200 MW – about enough energy to power 65,000 homes – would be sold on the open market, maybe to Idaho, maybe to other states.
Documents related to the proposal say the site could produce up to 425 MW, but an RES official said Monday he doesn’t anticipate the project will ultimately offer that much.
“It’s a large project,” said Scott Kringen, an RES project manager. “(But) we anticipate the first 200 will go to Nevada.”
The company quietly applied to lease Bureau of Land Management property in southern Twin Falls County last May. In November, the company announced it was pursuing a deal with the Nevada utility, though an agreement is yet to be finalized. A permitting process is also under way, as are environmental and economic impact reports expected to be finished soon.
RES has hired Twin Falls-based consultant Stephen Hartgen to lead a local public relations campaign. He said that Twin Falls County could see ongoing 3 percent revenue from the project’s gross income because of recently changed tax laws, which provide money to counties that host wind farms as long as the turbines continue to produce electricity.
The company will employ 20 fulltime workers and about 200 workers to build 185 turbines. At nearly $2 million per turbine, construction costs will likely approach a half a billion dollars.
“This is one of the largest projects ever proposed in Idaho,” Hartgen said.
RES declined to say how much of the 9,000-acre project will be on private lands, whether it bought those properties or at what price.
Companies often lease federal lands for energy projects, especially for oil and gas. Another energy company has leased BLM land related to a proposed 100-turbine wind farm on Cotterel Mountain in Cassia County.
China Mountain would be Sierra Pacific’s first wind project. RES, however, specializes in wind farms. The company says it’s had a hand in developing 15 percent of the nation’s wind energy, including projects in Washington, California and Texas, where it is headquartered and is developing a possible 1,000 MW farm.
Organizers stress that plans are early in the two-year permitting process, and no specific turbine locations have been chosen. But RES officials and wind experts familiar with the project say it’s only a matter of time before turbines will spin in Twin Falls County.
By Matt Christensen
5 February 2008
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