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Federal regulators have knocked the wind out of another renewable energy project planned for the desert west of Searchlight. The Bureau of Land Management has decided to reject a Sweden-based energy company’s application to build more than 200 turbines, each the height of a skyscraper, along a 22-mile stretch of the Nevada-California border.
The US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued this official letter denying Eolus North American's application for a right-of-way to construct and operate a wind energy facility with up to 106 wind turbines spanning approximately 32,000 acres of public lands in southern Nevada. The letter describes in detail the reasons for the denial. The summation of the letter is provided below. The full letter can be downloaded from this page.
Since the project is located on the California border and next to a major transmission line, the power generated there, if ever, is likely to flow into California to slake its legislatively mandated renewable energy portfolio of 50 percent renewables by 2030. All Nevada will get is the bird chopping eyesore.
Less than a year after plans were dropped for a controversial wind farm near Searchlight, an even larger and more contentious project in the same area is advancing through the permitting process.
The purchase approval by the council does not guarantee the wind power to Columbia because the Missouri Public Service Commission has not yet approved construction of the main means of transporting the energy, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line. Columbia Water and Light Assistant Director Ryan Williams said the agreement doesn't hinge on the delivery of the power.
The company has not found a buyer for the wind energy but has been negotiating with NV Energy and electric companies in California. A spokesman for the company said the project would not be built until it obtains contracts for the power.
The Department of the Interior may have recently approved the Searchlight Wind Project, but those who stand to benefit most from the project are politicians and well-connected campaign donors, and not the people of Searchlight. "People from other communities told us, ‘you don't want [wind turbines],'" said Sandy Walters, chairwoman of the Searchlight Town Advisory Board. "We tried telling that to BLM and Duke Energy, too."
"Literal beacons of the ‘green' energy movement, giant wind turbines have been one of the renewable energy sources of choice for the U.S. government, which has spent billions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing their construction ...But high maintenance costs, high rates of failure, and fluctuating weather conditions that affect energy production render wind turbines expensive and inefficient."
The approvals were for two solar and one wind projects, including NextEra Energy Inc's 750-megawatt McCoy Solar Energy Project in Southern California, the 150-megawatt Desert Harvest Solar Farm proposed by EDF Renewable Energy, also in Riverside County, and the 200-megawatt Searchlight Wind Energy Project in Nevada, south of Las Vegas. Searchlight, which is being developed by Duke Energy Corp, will use Siemens wind turbines.
At a time when every penny counts, a number of citizens of the West could soon see higher electric and water bills to subsidize the delivery of wind power from thousands of miles away to California. And given the history of power generation in our area, it hardly seems fair.
Nevada's renewable energy sector shows that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield just 288 permanent, full-time jobs. That's an initial cost of over $4.6 million per job.
The Spring Valley Wind project towers over nearby vehicles. The project, located 30 miles east of Ely, Nevada, includes 66 Siemens 2.3 MW machines. The Spring Valley project went online August 8, 2012 and is the first in the State of Nevada.
According to a Department of Interior memo, Enbridge Energy Partners, a Canadian-based company with extensive energy holdings in the U.S. that purchased the Southern Nevada plant from Arizona-based First Solar, "can apply for payments of up to 30 percent of the eligible costs of the project - approximately $50 million."
A year ago, a Reno clean energy businessman warned the Public Utilities Commission that if it didn't set a few standards for NV Energy's wind rebate program, its customers could end up footing the bill for turbines that rarely produce electricity.
The original plan by Searchlight Wind Project, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, was to produce 300 megawatts of power, but the project has been trimmed to 200 megawatts. ...the plan was altered in response to objections from the town’s residents. ...one of those residents who just happens to live west of beautiful downtown Searchlight would have had a clear view of many of those windmills from the picture window in his living room — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Midway through a two-year study about the potential impacts of a proposed wind farm on golden eagles in northern Nevada, wildlife biologists say they've identified nearly a dozen nesting sites in the area of the $200 million project in the mountains 20 miles northeast of Sparks.
The email stated Wilson Creek Wind still wishes to have the BLM "to maintain a current right-of-way application for the project, but the EIS process will be completely put on hold for the next six to eight months while the applicant reviews potential alternative sites based on the response during public scoping."
Complaints that the renewable energy industry creates relatively few jobs is probably accurate, say energy and economic experts. While renewable energy generation is growing fast in Nevada, it's still just a fraction of the overall economy. The Nevada Commission on Economic Development has been aggressively pushing renewable energy projects, but as a percentage of the state's total jobs, "it's not much, to be honest," said Lindsay Anderson, director of business research and development with the commission.
Sundance Drive will soon be home to a 66-foot tall wind turbine tower, despite protests from 14 neighboring households. After a nearly three-hour appeal hearing Monday, Elko County Commissioners unanimously agreed with a decision by the Elko County Planning Commission to allow the tower.
Arguing neighbors often make for good comedy fodder in films and TV shows. But a dispute between neighbors about the legality of installing a 25-kilowatt wind turbine in one Reno community could have serious repercussions for the entire state's fledgling wind industry. The ongoing tiff started, interestingly enough, with an introduction letter, resident Richard Sowers said. Last December, the 58-year-old commercial airline pilot moved from Incline Village into a two-acre property in south Reno's Forest Hills subdivision. One of the first things Sowers did after moving in was to send a note to his neighbors. "I introduced myself and my daughter and explained that I bought this property and that I looked forward to bringing it back up to the standards of the neighborhood after it went through a time of neglect," said Sowers, who was reached by phone during a layover in Japan. One part of the letter, however, would ultimately pit Sowers against his new neighbors. Sowers told them he wanted to install a wind turbine in his backyard. Sowers, who grew up in a farm with a windmill, always has had a soft spot for wind turbines. The ability to generate wind power was a key consideration for his decision to choose this neighborhood, Sowers said. Washoe County's clear-cut guidelines regarding wind turbine installation were also a factor, Sowers added. "Given the big push in Nevada for going green and making the state a green energy leader, I thought the time has come for a sea of change to occur," Sowers said. "I thought there was going to be this big embrace for green."Ominous winds Sowers' plan to install a wind turbine quickly was met with concern. Shortly after sending out his letter, Sowers said he got a call from neighbor Karl Hall, deputy district attorney for Washoe County, to request a meeting. After walking around his property and discussing different options about the proposed installation, both neighbors failed to come to an agreement. A key sticking point was the turbine's height. Sowers initial plan was to install a turbine that was going to be more than 75 feet. Although Washoe County codes generally limit residential wind turbine installations to 75 feet, it allows for bigger turbines if a special permit is issued.