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Alternative energy advocates, neighbors at odds over wind farm

Alternative energy advocates and residents opposed to giant wind turbines overlooking their homes in Warm Springs Valley are expected to square off when Nevada Wind's proposed wind farm comes before the Washoe County Planning Commission on Tuesday. ...No matter what the planning commission decides, the project is expected to be appealed to the Washoe County Commission.

Alternative energy advocates and residents opposed to giant wind turbines overlooking their homes in Warm Springs Valley are expected to square off when Nevada Wind's proposed wind farm comes before the Washoe County Planning Commission on Tuesday.

With the wind turbines and transmission line built on private land and requiring no lengthy environmental studies, Nevada Wind partners Tim Carlson and John Johansen say their $190 million project should be the first utility-strength wind farm built in Nevada. Construction would start in 2010.

Nevada Wind is proposing to build up to 44 wind turbines on Virginia Peak and nearby ridges in the Pah Rah range east of Warm Springs Valley. The rural valley, dotted with homes on 40-acre lots, is north of Spanish Springs.
The turbines are indeed giants: Blades 250 feet long from tip to tip would stand on 300-foot tall platforms.

By a show of hands, about 40 people in the audience opposed the Virginia Peak project when it was endorsed by the Warm Springs Citizens Advisory Board in an advisory vote of 2-1 in early December.

"Those are the people who don't want to see this project. How many people in the county are for it?" Carlson said of the opposition.

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Alternative energy advocates and residents opposed to giant wind turbines overlooking their homes in Warm Springs Valley are expected to square off when Nevada Wind's proposed wind farm comes before the Washoe County Planning Commission on Tuesday.

With the wind turbines and transmission line built on private land and requiring no lengthy environmental studies, Nevada Wind partners Tim Carlson and John Johansen say their $190 million project should be the first utility-strength wind farm built in Nevada. Construction would start in 2010.

Nevada Wind is proposing to build up to 44 wind turbines on Virginia Peak and nearby ridges in the Pah Rah range east of Warm Springs Valley. The rural valley, dotted with homes on 40-acre lots, is north of Spanish Springs.
The turbines are indeed giants: Blades 250 feet long from tip to tip would stand on 300-foot tall platforms.

By a show of hands, about 40 people in the audience opposed the Virginia Peak project when it was endorsed by the Warm Springs Citizens Advisory Board in an advisory vote of 2-1 in early December.

"Those are the people who don't want to see this project. How many people in the county are for it?" Carlson said of the opposition.

The wind farm would produce 85 megawatts when the wind blows, providing power for up to 36,000 households.

"We will never solve real concerns that they don't want to look at them. But they also like to have electricity," Carlson said.

Juliana Kipps said she'll have full view from her home of the wind turbines that will "break the skyline." She and others have banded together to create a group called Support Our Valley.

During the eight months of construction, Carlson said he expects trucks to make about 1,400 trips on an eight-mile route through the valley. That includes trucks to put gravel on the road, where needed, as well water trucks for dust control and hauling equipment and supplies.

Residents want guarantees the dirt roads will be maintained, dust kept to a minimum and their safety assured. In a worst-case scenario, officials have said truck trips would average one an hour during the day. But company officials hope to reduce that if aggregate can be found on site to make concrete.

Mitch Gerlinger, who plans to build on an 80-acre parcel in the valley, said he has fears high winds could knock over any of the turbines.

"I think they are rushing it," he said.

Carlson said the turbines, which weigh several tons, will be placed on flat areas on top of the mountains and will be anchored by a 30-feet deep concrete foundation. "They are so well engineered they don't fall down," he said.

To win support, Nevada Wind officials have worked with several residents to reroute parts of Quaking Aspen Road, where construction trucks head up into the mountains. For Catherine Armstrong, the company has agreed to move the road and power poles farther from her home and plant trees as a barrier. She has spoken in support.

To appease residents, the company already has agreed to reroute a power line from the middle of the valley to the eastern edge to connect with a power substation at Tracy.

All of these assurances will be written as conditions for obtaining a required special-use permit for the project, said John Berkich, assistant county manager.

The project is expected to produce $1 million a year for local governments after tax abatements are considered, according to an economic analysis by Rubald & Associates, of Carson City. It would employ 17 people for an annual payroll of $955,000 as well as provide for an initial economic boost of $7 million in sales and other taxes during the first year of construction.
Johansen of Spanish Springs is one of the pioneers in the industry. For 25 years, he has been president of the American Wind Energy Association and managed more than 20 wind projects in California, including at Tehachapi Pass near Los Angeles and San Gorgonio Pass, the nation's first wind farm, near Palm Springs. He oversaw the replacement of 2,200 older wind turbines with 70 units at Altamont Pass in the East San Francisco Bay Area.

Carlson, of Las Vegas, was executive director of the Nevada Economic Development Commission under Gov. Bob Miller and oversaw a similar operation for Southern Nevada for years before that.

No matter what the planning commission decides, the project is expected to be appealed to the Washoe County Commission.

The county commission approved a policy this spring to promote renewable energy sources. Berkich has been working with Nevada Wind officials to make sure everything possible is done to soften its impacts.

"This is a pilot project. This is the first time, and we want to do it right," Berkich said. Dozens of other sites in northern Washoe County are being scouted for their wind potential.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has been pushing for an alternative energy in Nevada, has endorsed the Virginia Peak project and applauded the county's support of the new industry. "I commend the County Commission on its forward thinking and thank them for supporting renewables," Reid said, in a prepared statement.

Reid wants alternative energy to be a big part of President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

Nevada is rich in solar, wind and geothermal energy sources.


Source: http://www.rgj.com/article/...

JAN 4 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18465-alternative-energy-advocates-neighbors-at-odds-over-wind-farm
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