Carson City – Nevada is famous for its solar and geothermal energy resources, but there is only one grid-scale wind farm operating in the state, the Spring Valley Wind facility located on public land roughly 30 miles east of Ely. Pattern Energy developed the Spring Valley facility in 2012, and now Eolus North America is variously scoping 2 new wind power projects in Nevada, one near Searchlight and the other near Carson City.
Eolus Wind is a leading wind power developer in Sweden, and according to a press release, the company has constructed nearly 500 of the roughly 3,000 turbines operating in Sweden. Eolus North America operates two Nevada-based companies intended to scope and potentially develop in-state wind resources, Crescent Peak Renewables LLC and Comstock Wind LLC.
The Crescent Peak Wind Project
Crescent Peak Renewables LLC officially started the federal approval process for the Crescent Peak Wind Project (CPW) near Searchlight, Nevada on March 15 of this year. The project is proposed for a location in southern Nevada along the Nevada-California state line near Crescent Peak. Project managers plan to ultimately generate 500 megawatts of electricity from roughly 100 turbines arrayed across some 500 acres.
The map below is a proposed plan and is, according to CPW, the “Preferred Site Alternative,” though this is subject to change as the Bureau of Land Management, various stake-holders and project managers work through the environmental assessment mandated by the National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA.
See a summary of the EIS process at the end of this article.
Lucas Ingvoldstad is Director of Business Development and Governmental Affairs for Eolus North America and recently visited the KNVC studios for a conversation about wind farming in Nevada …
A Trump Administration Executive Order speeds up the EIS process.
“The current Administration came out with an Executive Order saying that they would like the EIS process to take no longer than a year, which is an aggressive timeline, so we’ll see,” Ingvoldstad said. “We have been working with the southern Nevada district office, BLM District Office, they are intent on working with us to achieve that goal. We may see a slight delay because we kind of have to go through an added process … they have to amend their plan for our project essentially, so that could add a couple of months, but that’s an aggressive timeline, and we are working with the BLM on that (the Crescent Peak wind project).”
The Comstock Wind Project
Comstock Wind LLC has not filed a Plan of Development for the potential sites in Storey, Carson City, and Washoe County, and according to project administrators, there is no current time-table for beginning the federal, state and local approval processes.
Comstock Wind holds a “Type 2 Right of Way,” which affords them access to the sites, and they are currently collecting wind data at the locations to gauge their suitability as a power resource.
In 2008, a company known as Great Basin Wind LLC attempted to develop a wind farm on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management located, “north of Carson City and west of Virginia City,” but the project application was withdrawn largely in response to local opposition.
Lucas Ingvoldstad was quick to point out that the projects are in no way related and that there are no firm plans or a timetable for the Comstock Wind project. Technicians are merely collecting data.
“It’s easy to associate the ‘Comstock’ with Virginia City, although you would not be able to see the project from Virginia City. It would actually start outside of Virginia City and come down south toward Highway 50” Ingvoldstad said about the location of the Comstock Wind project, should his company apply to develop the sites.
No matter the location, the EIS process tailors each project
As a rule, solar builds out, and wind builds up, which affects the local view-shed more than solar and oftentimes inspires opposition to commercial-scale wind farms.
In many states and nations wind turbines are located within 300 meters of residences, as new turbine technology has made for much quieter turbines than earlier designs, though noise has been a perennial complaint.
“We work with the surrounding communities that could be potentially affected by that and listen to their concerns,” Ingvoldstad said. “Through the EIS process, the Environmental Impact Statement process, we develop alternatives, we and the BLM I should say. We develop alternatives and work with the community to say ‘this one doesn’t work, OK, does this one work and how’s this better,’ really trying to hear their concerns.”
Ingvoldstad acknowledges there will be disagreements but is committed to constructive dialogue.
“We can’t appease everybody. We understand that. But we try to do our best to come up with a preferred alternative from the company’s perspective, but also from surrounding areas or environmental organizations or cultural concerns, we try to do our best to come up with a pathway forward to achieve the best possible results while maintaining the project’s integrity,” Ingvoldstad said.
In general, industries intent to develop net-scale electrical generation projects only invest the many millions needed when there is regulatory certainty, and Lucas Ingvoldstad said he appreciates the consistency of working with the Bureau of Land Management, but the Nevada regulatory environment is in something of a flux.
Nevada’s Ballot Question 3 passed in 2016 by more than a 70 percent margin, and if it passes again this November, the State Constitution will be amended to deregulate Nevada electrical supply market, which would change the environment in which Eolus wind farms would generate and sell electrical power.
Eolus is officially neutral on Question 3 but categorically supports another initiative before voters this November, Ballot Question 6. Question 6 would simply increase Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent by 2030. Ingvoldstad said he has no particular concern about his business model if Question 3 passes or does not pass, though he added that Question 6 is an important piece for creating the confidence needed for significant investment.
“We believe an increase in RPS supporting Question 6 would give us regulatory certainty regardless of what happens with Question 3,” said Ingvoldstad. “The Legislature in 2017 passed a bill that is similar to what we have now on the ballot and unfortunately it was vetoed, but we believe having that framework in place, whether Question 3 passes or not, provides renewable energy companies such as ourselves to continue to do business in the state.”
Lucas Ingvoldstad said the wind resource in Nevada is excellent and surprisingly under developed.
“The wind resource is fantastic. Utility scale wind is less known in the state of Nevada. People aren’t as familiar with it as they are with solar or geothermal, but wind is also a very specific resource. You can have a great wind resource in one location, and in less than a mile, it’s not going to be as good to produce,” Ingvoldstad explained.
Do wind and sun resources overlap in Nevada?
“We believe we could compliment solar very nicely, in that, generally speaking, and this is generally, it will typically get windier between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and that’s when the sun starts to go down, so if you’re talking about grid stability or stability in pricing from a renewable resource, it can really compliment solar, particularly because we have so much in southern Nevada,” said Ingvoldstad.
For more from Lucas Ingvoldstad, listen to the audio interview posted above …
A summary of the EIS process from the Environmental Protection Agency:
An agency publishes a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register. The Notice of Intent informs the public of the upcoming environmental analysis and describes how the public can become involved in the EIS preparation.
This Notice of Intent starts the scoping process, which is the period in which the federal agency and the public collaborate to define the range of issues and possible alternatives to be addressed in the EIS.
A draft EIS is published for public review and comment for a minimum of 45 days.
Upon close of the comment period, agencies consider all substantive comments and, if necessary, conduct further analyses.
A final EIS is then published, which provides responses to substantive comments.
Publication of the final EIS begins the minimum 30-day “wait period,” in which agencies are generally required to wait 30 days before making a final decision on a proposed action.
EPA publishes a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register, announcing the availability of both draft and final EISs to the public. Find EISs with open comments or wait periods.
The EIS process ends with the issuance of the Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD explains the agency’s decision, describes the alternatives the agency considered, and discusses the agency’s plans for mitigation and monitoring, if necessary.