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Wind farm project introduced to residents

At least 80 people gathered at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center on Thursday evening to hear about a proposed wind farm project that would generate energy to power tens of thousands of homes.

San Diego-based Humboldt Wind LLC is proposing to build up to 60 590-foot-tall wind turbines around Monument Ridge that would generate 135 megawatts of power. Along with the turbines, the company proposes to build access roads, collection lines, meteorological towers, an operation building and lines that would eventually connect to a PG&E substation in Bridgeville, according to the project’s leaders.

“We looked at 104 different sites across California,” said project lead Nathan Vajdos, who introduced residents and county leaders to the project Thursday evening. “We boiled that down to a handful of sites.”

After considering a few other spots in Humboldt County, including Rainbow Ridge and Shively Ridge, the Monument Ridge area was selected as the best location.

“Nothing we’ve seen has been a fatal flaw that would prevent us from moving forward,” said Vajdos, who is employed by Terra-Gen.

Humboldt Wind LLC is a subsidiary of Terra-Gen LLC, which is owned by the private equity firm Energy Capital Partners. Terra-Gen has renewable energy projects throughout the western U.S.

“We’ve developed over 40 percent of the wind projects in California,” Vajdos said.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn opened the meeting Thursday evening stating he attended the previous night’s meeting in Fortuna.

“The project lies pretty much only in the 1st District,” he said.

At this early stage in the process, he is looking forward to learning more about it, but said he is excited.

“Can I say I’m a kid in a candy store?” he said. “Yeah.”

But he added he’s also a guy who likes shiny red pickups that get 2 miles per gallon.

“It’s an important project to the county,” he said. “This project will power 33,000 homes. This is not the Shell project.”

Vajdos, and other members of those involved in the project, reiterated that this project is vastly different from one tried several years ago.

“We know a lot of people had a bad experience with a previous developer,” said Terra-Gen’s Kevin Martin. “We want to avoid that.”

“They’re an apple,” Vajdos added. “We’re a pear.”

A wide variety of community members attended the presentation. Several were called on to state why they came.

“I definitely need to know more about the project,” said Sherri Woo, chairwoman of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s board of directors.

Other community members cited an interest in clean energy projects.

One of the concerns address Thursday was what potential impacts the project could have, especially on wildlife in the area.

Vajdos told attendees that bird and bat studies “started more than a year ago.”

Yasmine Akky, who Vajdos called the team’s “bird nerd” – she’s contracted through Stantec – stated that study of wildlife would continue well after the project is established and would likely include local people to monitor long-term impacts.

Vajdos addressed concerns about the view showing images of what the turbines could look like atop Monument Ridge.

“You woulld have to have X-ray vision to see these turbines from Ferndale,” he said. “We’ve been working very hard to quantify the impacts of this project.”

The project could create hundreds of local jobs as part of the construction and create at least 12 full-time positions once it is operational.

“We often hold local job fairs,” Vajdos said.

Fifth District Supervisor-elect Steve Madrone attended the meeting and called it a “great project.”

“There clearly could be impacts to birds, view and roads,” he said. “I hope that they can come up with the way to mitigate potential impacts.”

He added that he “appreciates that they have gotten out early and are talking to people.”

And he’s clear its not like the Shell project.

“Well, they’re not coming though the middle of a town,” he said.

Vajdos emphasized the project will be a boost to clean energy supplies.

“If you believe in climate change like I do,” he said. “This is probably the first time you can support clean energy proactively.”