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Shell WindEnergy pulls plug on Bear River Ridge wind project; locals offer mixed reactions to announcement  

Credit:  Megan Hansen and Grant Scott-Goforth/The Times-Standard | www.times-standard.com 11 July 2012 ~~

After eight years and $5 million-worth of work, Shell WindEnergy Inc. is pulling the plug on a wind turbine project that was proposed for Bear River Ridge.

The company announced the news Tuesday in a letter, stating that it’s withdrawing from the project due to “unfavorable market conditions and issues pertaining to the transportation logistics” of getting wind turbines into Humboldt County.

Shell WindEnergy’s proposed 50-megawatt project would have placed 25 wind turbines along the ridge south of Ferndale as part of an alternative energy wind farm. Getting the wind turbines into the county would have involved the construction of some five miles of road, according to a previous county notice.

When asked for further explanation regarding the decision, a Shell WindEnergy representative emailed an additional statement about the company’s predicament.

”While the project was possible from a technical perspective, the cost of the alternative routes and multiple handling of turbine components – everything from docks, trucking, road improvements, staging areas, etc. – was just not economically feasible,” the statement said.

In addition, the statement said, “the price for power from renewable sources has come down more than 30 percent in the last two years,” making the market conditions unfavorable.

The company’s letter states it is ceasing all of its development activities immediately – including community consultation, project and transmission design, environmental impact report and environmental impact statement permitting, transportation and other environmental studies.

Humboldt County Senior Planner John Miller said the decision was news to him and that county staff have been in the process of reviewing the company’s conditional use permit. He said the project had made it to the stage of environmental review.

”In this case, we hired a consultant to conduct the environmental review,” Miller said.

Under the current circumstances, he said the company will likely pull its permit application.

The wind project has been a controversial issue, especially in Ferndale and Rio Dell. While some people were in favor of the project, others didn’t want a wind farm in their backyard.

Ferndale Mayor Jeffrey Farley said the Ferndale City Council had asked the county to re-evaluate the project in response to vocal opposition by residents.

”We had an open mind,” Farley said. “We just wanted more information.”

Farley called the move a victory for those opposed to the project.

”I’m pretty confident (Shell WindEnergy) looked at both sides,” Farley said. “I know they saw a lot of opposition. Whether or not that had anything to do with it? I doubt it. This wasn’t their first rodeo.”

Ferndale resident Ellin Beltz said she was pleased by Shell WindEnergy’s decision.

”I’m just in a state of shock,” Beltz said. “It feels like a giant anvil has been lifted off of the town.”

The proposed project has paved the way for discussions about future alternative energy options, Beltz said, adding she expects that the public discourse will lead to a new focus on energy issues on a more local level.

”That just gives Ferndale back its future,” she said.

Shell WindEnergy’s letter said the company will continue to operate its existing wind assets and look for opportunities to expand in the future.

”The project development team would like to express our deep thanks to all of the families, community leaders and individuals who have supported the proposed project over the years,” the letter stated.

Shell Exits Bear River Ridge Wind Project

We would like to inform you that Shell WindEnergy Inc. has decided to exit the Bear River Wind Project due to unfavorable market conditions and issues pertaining to the transportation logistics. This means that we will stop all development activities related to the project including – community consultation, project and transmission design, EIR/EIS permitting, transportation and environmental studies.

Wind is an important renewable energy resource and a valuable part of a sustainable energy portfolio. Shell continues to operate our existing wind assets and look for opportunities to grow our wind portfolio.

The project development team would like to express our deep thanks to all of the families, community leaders and individuals who have supported the proposed project over the years.

Best Regards,

Shell WindEnergy Inc.

Source:  Megan Hansen and Grant Scott-Goforth/The Times-Standard | www.times-standard.com 11 July 2012

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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