IDAHO FALLS – A 60-meter tower 23 miles northwest of Idaho Falls off U.S. Highway 20 has become a source of curiosity for many who pass by.
Public records obtained from Bingham County Planning and Zoning indicate the structure is a “temporary meteorological evaluation tower to verify the wind characteristics at a potential site for a wind farm.”
Arco Wind owns the tower and Garth Klimchuk, the manager of the company, tells EastIdahoNews.com it was installed on private property in September. Wind data will be collected over the next two years.
“We’re looking for the speed, the density of the wind, we’re looking for things like shear factor (a change in the direction or speed of wind over a relatively short distance), all of which that MET should tell us,” Klimchuk says. “With that, we can determine the level of production that will come out of the project with specific types of turbines.”
The size of the wind farm will depend on the data gathered over the next 24 months, but Klimchuk says there could be anywhere from 50-70 windmills. That amount would generate between 200 and 400 megawatts of electricity – enough to power between 40,000 and 80,000 homes.
Klimchuk says all the energy generated from these turbines would have a direct benefit to power customers in the surrounding area.
“The utility – whether it’s Rocky Mountain Power, Idaho Power or a commercial or industrial customer – will most likely end up consuming that electricity. So everybody around is going to benefit from it,” he says.
Arco Wind requested a conditional use permit for the tower in February. The project started moving forward following a public hearing in May. Klimchuk says they chose this location because of the “good wind resources and interconnection capabilities.”
“There’s a lot of transmission lines and substations out there, so (there’s great access) into the electric utility system,” he says.
Brad Foster of Foster Land & Cattle in Ririe is listed as the owner of the property where the tower sits about a mile and a half northeast of the East Twin Butte. The land is currently used for grazing, according to the permit.
Klimchuk says the project is in the initial stages and more information will be forthcoming.
“We’re just beginning to understand what the project will look like and how attractive it will be,” says Klimchuk. “We’re going through a very rigorous process with the local authorities and the state agencies. There’s going to be a lot more information that will come out (in the coming weeks).”