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Residents wary of mesa wind farm deal  

Credit:  Staci Matlock | The New Mexican, www.santafenewmexican.com 12 November 2008 ~~

A Chicago-based energy company has signed a two-year option on more than 7,000 acres of state trust land on a mesa top in San Miguel County for a potential wind farm.

Some residents oppose the plan by Invenergy to place up to 50 wind turbines on the mesa that borders radio shock jock Don Imus’ ranch off Interstate 25 near Bernal.

Mark Jacobson, director of business development for Invenergy, said the company is still completing environmental studies required by the State Land Office and must obtain approval for the project from San Miguel County. He said the company plans to complete the full application to the State Land Office by mid-2009, a document that will be available for public review.

Each wind turbine, made by GE, will have the capacity to produce up to 1.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 400 homes a year, Jacobson said. The height from the tower bottom to the turbine hub will be 265 feet. Measured to the end of a turbine blade in the upright position, the height is 390 feet. Each turbine will sit on a concrete pad with a visible collar 16 feet in diameter, but the concrete foundation underneath could be up to 40 feet deep. “The average amount of land taken out of production (for grazing or farming) is one-third to one-fourth of an acre for each wind turbine,” Jacobson said.

The company is about to sign a deal with Public Service Company of New Mexico to use the utility’s transmission line about six miles from the proposed wind farm.

Bill Madison, who owns a vineyard in the valley just east of the mesa, said he’s opposed to large wind turbines disturbing the views of the mesa. He said some people are worried about the low level of noise the turbines might produce.

Jacobson said he hasn’t completed a study of how the wind turbines will impact views, but he said most people living at the base of the mesa or due north will likely see only three to four of the windmills. The rest would stretch south on the mesa out of sight, he said. “I’m sure there will be some people who think because it changes the view, it is a negative impact,” Jacobson said. “After a project goes in, we usually have people who look at (the turbines) and think they are beautiful.”

Jacobson said as far as he’s seen, there are no homes on the mesa where the wind turbines would be placed.

The company can’t build the wind farm until it first has a buyer for the electricity, Jacobson said.

Kristin Haase, assistant commissioner at the State Land Office, said Invenergy had signed the lease option under the name La Sierrita Wind for 7,063 acres of state trust land. The company will pay $14,404 a year for the lease and has an option to apply for a 35-year lease. The company will be measuring the wind speeds on the mesa for the next year. Invenergy must complete environmental, archaeological, bird and bat surveys, a soil analysis, and more, according to Brian Bingham, director of the renewable energy program of the State Land Office.

Haase said there has already been a lot of opposition in the surrounding communities to the wind farm. “It’s disappointing because there’s such a high need for renewable energy,” Haase said. “Seems like no one wants it in their backyard, but the power needs to come from somewhere.”

Invenergy was founded in 2001 and has focused on the development and operation of large-scale electricity generation from wind and natural-gas facilities. So far, Invenergy has about 2,700 megawatts of natural-gas power plants and more than 1,200 megawatts of wind-power projects completed or under construction. The San Miguel County project will be the first one Invenergy has built in New Mexico. The company builds four to six projects a year around the country.

Source:  Staci Matlock | The New Mexican, www.santafenewmexican.com 12 November 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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