Spring Valley might become a valley of the windmills in two years. A developer presented a proposal to the White Pine County Commission Feb. 13 to develop a wind farm in Spring Valley, about 30 miles east of Ely.
This proposal for renewable, or “green” energy, would coexist in harmony with another proposal, a coal-fired energy plant.
Babcock & Brown, an Australian international investment and advisory company with its U.S. base of operations in San Francisco, is one of the largest developers of wind farms worldwide. Now that company wants to develop a wind farm in White Pine County.
The other part of the equation is Sierra Pacific Resources, the parent company of Nevada Power. Sierra Pacific proposes to build the 2,500-megawatt Ely Energy Center in Steptoe Valley. Babcock & Brown is interested in Sierra Pacific’s proposal partly because it includes a 250-mile power transmission line.
When the 150 megawatt first phase of the project is completed Babcock & Brown plans to tie into an existing 150-megawatt capacity transmission line. The second phase of the wind farm, to be built sometime after 2011, would require the transmission line that Sierra Pacific would build for the Ely Energy Station.
“We’ve had negotiations with them (Babcock & Brown) about them developing their project and we’ve agreed to purchase power from them,” said David Simms, Sierra Pacific’s director of project development.
Babcock & Brown proposes to build the project on 12,000 acres but will only use about 2 percent of the land for wind turbines, according to George Hardie, representing Babcock & Brown at the county commission meeting. Hardie is based in Dallas, Texas.
Hardie said there would be no impact on water. Babcock & Brown would lease a small portion of the land needed for the project from the Southern Nevada Water Authority but the majority of it would be federal Bureau of Land Management land.
An underground electrical system would connect turbines and a transmission line.
County commissioners responded favorably to the wind farm proposal with a few questions.
Commissioner Laurie Carson said she is in favor of the project but questioned that a major portion of the project would be on tax-exempt federal land.
Commission Chairman Brent Eldridge said the BLM land is not taxable by the county but the turbine structures would be. The remainder of the land would be obtained through a lease between SNWA and Babcock & Brown.
“I have always assumed that we would have a tax bill,” Hardie said. “I’ve build a lot of wind farms. I have never build a wind farm where I didn’t pay property taxes.”
“We will be giving a significant boost to the tax base,” Hardie said.
He added that the project would require up to 100 construction jobs and eight-to-10 full-time jobs once the project is completed.
“Our best hope is the project would be ready to go at the end of 2009,” Hardie said, adding that Phase 1 could realistically begin operating in 2010 or possibly as late as 2011.
Natalie McCue, also representing Babcock & Brown, said the Spring Valley location is more cost effective that ridge line areas.
She said construction would take six-to-nine months and would ideally begin in April of next year.
“Wind energy is reliable and inexhaustible,” McCue said.
Three blades atop each 80-to-100 meter tall turbine would produce from one to three megawatts. The turbines are quiet, according to Babcock & Brown.
By John Plestina
Ely Times Reporter
20 February 2008
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