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Massive wind farm planned; Canadian firm will use thousands of acres southwest of Kingman

As the price of oil continues its steady climb, one Canadian company is eyeing Kingman as a new center for renewable energy production.

Western Wind Energy Corporation, based out of Vancouver, has purchased 1,128 and leased more than 22,000 acres of land to the southwest of Kingman in anticipation of building Steel Park, a wind turbine farm that, once completed, is expected to generate up to 215 megawatts of electricity annually, according to a press release on WWE’s Web site.

George Salama is Western Wind’s vice president of business development and the president and CEO of Western Solargenics, a wholly owned subsidiary of WWE. He said that in addition to building Steel Park on the private and federal land near the defunct North Star Steel mill, WWE was eyeing other locations in the area for another wind project, as well as a thermal solar project. With some of the highest recorded wind speed distributions in the state, Salama said he sees Kingman as the next potential Tehachapi, Calif.

“Tehachapi is considered the Mecca of wind power in California, where wind resources are considered the best in the state,” Salama said. “We look at Kingman at the same value, the proposition of being the best wind resource in the region.”

WWE is already developing the Windstar I project in Tehachapi, where more than a dozen private companies already maintain more than 5,000 wind turbines.

According to the company’s Web site, the Windstar I project will cover more than 1,500 acres once completed, with a total expected cost of about $270 million. Western Wind has already invested more than $6 million in development capital, and setup is expected in the second quarter of 2009.

With the Steel Park project area already secured outside of Kingman, Salama said the company is now looking at the best turbines to use for the site and for prospective utility companies to sell the generated power to.

“Our preference is, if we can, sell to utilities in the state of Arizona,” he said. “Between the combination of California and Arizona, there are many projects to be done outside of Kingman, which will help create jobs for Kingman and the surrounding areas.”

Salama said an average of 50 jobs would be created for each project developed in the Kingman area, including electricians, engineers, mechanics and construction workers.

“Usually what we do is hire out a contractor, and the contractor would be looking for local talent,” he said. “It is our policy to try to benefit the local communities.

Western Wind has already applied for zoning and permitting to begin construction of the project. The first 15 megawatts of the project is expected to cost approximately $33 million, $6.2 million of which Western Wind has already invested. Salama said the project would begin construction within the next three to five years.

James Chilton, Miner Staff Reporter

Kingman Daily Miner

30 June 2008