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Supervisors get report on wind farm plan

AltaGas Income Trust of Calgary, Alberta is proposing the project, which would install dozens of wind turbines hundreds of feet tall along ridgetops in the Walker Ridge area, located along the border of Lake and Colusa counties, as Lake County News has reported.

LAKEPORT - A representative of a Canadian company gave the Board of Supervisors an update on plans for a wind farm at the board's Tuesday meeting.

AltaGas Income Trust of Calgary, Alberta is proposing the project, which would install dozens of wind turbines hundreds of feet tall along ridgetops in the Walker Ridge area, located along the border of Lake and Colusa counties, as Lake County News has reported.

Peter Eaton, project development director for wind projects, outlined the plan for the board.

He said AltaGas has been around since 1994, has an enterprise value of more than $2 billion and employs more than 800 people, most of them in Canada.

He said the company got into wind projects in 2006, and recently completed a 100 megawatt wind farm in British Columbia.

"It's intriguing that the county has a long history of renewable energy engagement," Eaton told the board.

The Walker Ridge area - at about a 3,000 foot elevation - "is relatively open country in terms of residential development," said Eaton.

The company would lease land from the Bureau of Land Management to locate the project. He said the BLM land in question is about 8,000 contiguous acres.

The goal is to place the windmills on the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

LAKEPORT - A representative of a Canadian company gave the Board of Supervisors an update on plans for a wind farm at the board's Tuesday meeting.

AltaGas Income Trust of Calgary, Alberta is proposing the project, which would install dozens of wind turbines hundreds of feet tall along ridgetops in the Walker Ridge area, located along the border of Lake and Colusa counties, as Lake County News has reported.

Peter Eaton, project development director for wind projects, outlined the plan for the board.

He said AltaGas has been around since 1994, has an enterprise value of more than $2 billion and employs more than 800 people, most of them in Canada.

He said the company got into wind projects in 2006, and recently completed a 100 megawatt wind farm in British Columbia.

"It's intriguing that the county has a long history of renewable energy engagement," Eaton told the board.

The Walker Ridge area - at about a 3,000 foot elevation - "is relatively open country in terms of residential development," said Eaton.

The company would lease land from the Bureau of Land Management to locate the project. He said the BLM land in question is about 8,000 contiguous acres.

The goal is to place the windmills on the ridge, Eaton said. There would be between 29 and 42 Siemens wind turbines which would generate between 60 and 70 megawatts of power, enough to supply 25,000 households.

Construction is expected to take between seven and nine months in 2012, according to the proposal's timeline, Eaton explained.

There would be 70 to 100 construction jobs, most of them union. Eaton said AltaGas is beginning to work with unions now to secure the labor.

"Why does it have to be union?" asked Supervisor Rob Brown.

Eaton replied that it is difficult to build a large construction project in this part of the work without union labor.

Brown said that means the workers will come from outside of the area. "We're always looking for opportunities for our local people to find work," he said.

Once the project is up and running, Eaton anticipated between four and eight full-time position would be created. With the company looking at 20- to 25-year power purchase agreements, "We think those jobs are pretty steady jobs," Eaton said.

Supervisor Jim Comstock asked if those would be local jobs or whether AltaGas would bring people in to fill them. Eaton replied that some of the jobs are quite specialized.

Comstock asked the salary range for the jobs, and Eaton reported they would be between $50,000 and $100,000 annually, which Comstock noted was comparable to wages paid at The Geysers geothermal facility.

Eaton said they expect 500 acres of the more than 8,000 acres to be impacted by the construction project, but he estimated less than 100 acres will be impacted long-term. The location is relatively close to the Pacific Gas & Electric transmission line, meaning a new line won't need to be constructed.

He said AltaGas chose the area due to the BLM's 2006 management plan designating it as a potential wind site. Eaton said the company has purchased wind data from the project's previous owner and collected a year of their own.

"We've confirmed that it's a reasonable site," he said.

So far they've not found any federal or state endangered species on the site, Eaton said. The company currently is doing studies on birds and bats, as well as noise and visuals.

Board Chair Anthony Farrington pointed out that Lake County - which is a net energy exporter thanks, in part, to The Geysers - hasn't previously benefited from much of the energy produced locally.

He asked if that would be the same with this project. Eaton said it would.

Supervisor Denise Rushing asked about the timing of an environmental impact study. Eaton said he expects to have public scoping meetings in August - one in Williams, in Colusa County, and one in Clearlake.

When the draft environmental impact statement comes out in 2011, it will have a comment period, Eaton said.

Eaton said he will be in touch with the board to update them on the wind farm proposal's progress.

Victoria Brandon, representing the Sierra Club's Redwood Chapter, said the group hasn't taken a formal position on the proposal.

Renewable energy is great, but "it's also a balancing act with environmental consequences," Brandon said.

She said wind farms have to have their impacts on wildlife reviewed. "There will be a tremendous amount of earth that has to be moved for this," she said, and anchoring vast structures in fractured geology will be a challenge.

Another challenge, said Brandon, will be widening the 26-foot-wide roads in the project area up to 40 feet when, in some places, the existing 26-foot width takes up entire ridgetops.

Brandon said the project area's serpentine soil contains not only asbestos but mercury. The BLM is trying to remediate some of the mercury mines up there that have caused impairment, she said.

Brown said he didn't think some of the issues relating to construction and roads would be much different than when a dam was built in that area. Brandon responded that it's a difficulty that doesn't exist with all wind farm projects.

The big project will be good for the county, Brown said.


Source: http://lakeconews.com/conte...

JUL 14 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27225-supervisors-get-report-on-wind-farm-plan
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