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Public comment sought for proposed wind farm land lease 

Credit:  Jack Barnwell | Dec 31, 2023 | newsminer.com ~~

The lease for a proposed wind turbine farm at Shovel Creek has been released for public comment by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, with testimony due by 5 p.m. Jan. 29.

The applicant, Alaska Renewables, wants to lease up to 450 acres within an overall 3,800-acre project footprint over a 40-year period.

Co-founded by engineers Andrew McDonnell and Matt Perkins, Alaska Renewables is one of a handful of companies that responded to a request for qualifications from Golden Valley Electric Association to eventually develop a wind energy project that would potential provide electricity under a power purchase agreement.

GVEA set a goal under a strategic generation plan adopted in June 2022 to ask for and develop a large-scale wind energy plan. Its strategic plan also called for purchasing additional electricity from Southcentral Alaska utilities, close down its Healy Unit No. 2 power plant by the end of 2024, and replace its outdated battery energy storage system (BESS).

The project would include between 25 and 63 wind turbines that could generate between 100 and 210 megawatts of power, depending on the project’s scope. It would also include a new substation, transmission line extension and access roads to the turbines. The project would also require space for up to five meteorological towers on individual parcels requiring one to four acres, a small maintenance facility and a BESS.

“The aim of our proposed project is to meet the needs and goals of GVEA and its member-owners, as well as the broader Alaska grid,” the company stated in its description. “This proposed project is designed to enable GVEA’s transition to a lower-cost, more reliable and more environmentally friendly energy mix.”

The turbines would be located anywhere from 18 to 25 miles west of Fairbanks and sited along the crests between two and 13 miles to the west of Murphy Dome and the existing Murphy Dome Radar Station.

During the course of several community engagement meetings, Perkins and McDonnell estimated the project could cost between $600 million and $800 million.

According to the project scope filed with the lease, Alaska Renewables has “consulted extensively with over a dozen major Alaska-based environmental, engineering, and construction firms to ensure the feasibility, low cost, and low impact of this proposed project.”

While the project proposes a 2026 and 2027 timeline, it “remains early on in its development, and significant work remains to fully evaluate its wind resource, benefits, impacts, design, sizing, and community acceptance, as well as any mitigation measures that may be necessary to minimize impacts and maximize the benefits for the community.”

According to DNR’s preliminary decision, the land being considered for lease are classified for habitat and public recreation-dispsered and the project “is consistent with the area plans as the project is for a public utility and is a general public benefit.”

“The proposed project is located in an area with significant recreational use for a variety of uses including, but not limited to, hiking, skiing, hunting, and motorized use,” the DNR draft agreement states. “Roads associated with this project will improve access along these ridgetops, allowing for increased recreational opportunities.”

The draft document also provides comments from several agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s concerns with birdlife such as eagles, potential traffic impacts along Murphy Dome and Old Murphy Dome Road during the construction phase.

Alaska DOT noted the potential impacts from construction.

“Trucks carrying windmill poles and other oversized loads may have trouble negotiating turns, which could have short-term impacts on blocking intersections during development,” DOT stated in its comment. “Lane closure permits and traffic control may be necessary.”

DOT maintains Murphy Dome Road and DNR noted it was “unlikely the applicant will use Old Murphy Dome Road.”

DNR noted that Alaska Renewables has been conducting an extensive migratory bird and wildlife study and will need to obtain all necessary permits from [Alaska Department of Fish and Game] and the USFWS.” The company would also require a DNR approved bird strike mitigation plan which is to be developed in consultation with ADF&G and USFWS.

To read the proposed lease and supplemental documents, visit http://notice.alaska.gov/213611. Written testimony can be submitted to visit A.J. Wait a natural resource manager with DNR’s Division of Mining, Land, and Water, by mail or in person at the Department of Natural Resources 3700 Airport Way Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-4699 or by email at nro.lands@alaska.gov

Source:  Jack Barnwell | Dec 31, 2023 | newsminer.com

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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