Library from Utah
It was nearly two decades in the making, yet took just a couple months to build, forever changing the landscape of the Southeast Utah high desert, and altering the culture of a small rural town.
The Bureau of Land Management is advancing a major multistate transmission line project that the Obama administration considers a top priority in its ongoing efforts to develop wind and solar power in the West.
Wind power generation had its smallest increase in 16 years due to less intense wind speeds in Utah and eight other Western states in the country. Even though wind generation capacity jumped by 13 percent in 2015, the actual output grew 5.1 percent.
Many of the turbines seem to sit idle through much of the day. An sPower official explains that some of the idle time is due to the fact that biologists are in the process of documenting the flight of birds in the area.
A wide range of questions were asked about the request, including why the entities would approve the request since the project is already in place. Construction at the wind farm is expected to be complete in coming weeks.
The CUP required that the project developers take steps – “as much as possible” – to mitigate the impact of the project on surrounding property owners. Concerns that were mentioned include the impact of flicker from the shadow of the giant blades, the red aviation warning lights, and the noise from the spinning blades.
In the almost four decades I’ve lived in southeast Utah, I would be hard-pressed to think of another project that will alter the once familiar physical landscape in such an extreme way. Re-aligning and paving Utah Highway 95, back in the 1970s, from Blanding to Hanksville might be one example. Or the copper mine in Lisbon Valley. ...They’ll [the turbines] be visible from La Sal, Utah and along much of US 191 from Moab to Monticello. ...They may even be visible along parts of Interstate 70, eighty miles to the north, especially at night.
But the project is again encountering stiff headwinds and political turbulence, this time stemming from a competitor and a group of landowners who say Latigo's county permits are invalid. A group calling itself the Northern Monticello Alliance says the project would destroy its property values, the new developer is shirking mitigation requirements, and the conditional-use permit issued by San Juan County three years ago expired long before work began in July.
The protest seeks to rescind a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) which was issued for the wind park in July, 2012. ...The protest to the CUP states that the permit expired after one year and is no longer in effect. They add that changes were made to the project outside of the scope of the CUP.
Vast acreages of land are being earmarked for the development of wind and solar projects. These aren’t mom & pop proposals to build rooftop panels or small windmills; instead, they are being planned and constructed on a scale that should stagger the sensibilities of anyone with an environmental conscience. It represents the wholesale destruction of vast areas of the West. ...the subsequent environmental damage cannot be understated. And yet suddenly, environmentalists don’t seem to notice...or care.
Sophie Hayes, staff attorney with Utah Clean Energy, was embroiled in complicated pricing controversy involving Rocky Mountain Power, the wind developers and consumer advocates that was decided in part late last summer. The decision paved the way for inked agreements for the development of two projects in the Monticello area in San Juan County and two other wind farms in Delta.
"A half mile is still too close," said Thomas Karjola, a Rawhide resident. "We have submitted to the planning commission and the commissioners plenty of research that shows that even within a half-mile there are health and noise problems, and a loss in property values. These things are huge and people just don't want to live by them."
Representatives from Wasatch Wind discussed their proposed wind farm at an Open House held concurrently with the Monticello City Council meeting on April 23. According to Wasatch Wind representative Julie Mack, the purpose of the event was the help local residents visualize the impact of the wind farm on the Monticello area.
The turbine closest to town would be about a mile from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Monticello temple. Some wind towers might be within a half mile of some property lines at the northern of town, but Wasatch Wind said the closest city boundary will be approximately three-fourths of a mile from the nearest turbine.
Deputy Utah Fire Marshal Troy Mills says high winds either caused crossing wires to touch or come close enough to spark, sending a surge to the ground and igniting grass. The Wood Hollow Fire burned 75 square miles, or about 47,000 acres, and destroyed more than 100 structures besides homes. It was 100% contained July 2.
As recently as November, 2011, officials were hopeful that a major project could be completed as soon as the end of 2012. However, a bankruptcy filing and concerns about the financial viability of the project have put everything on hold.
Growth and more expensive sources of power are necessitating a look at raising rates, here. "Power operations have not covered operating costs for two or three years," said City Manager John Thacker Monday.
A proposed $30 million wind farm near the mouth of Weber Canyon failed to blow away the South Weber City Council, resulting in the plan being tabled for further review.
Meanwhile, PSB denies neighbor's motion for permit reconsideration
UAMPS is looking to install a 108-megawatt wind farm in Bonneville County, Idaho, and needs cities to commit in advance in order to buy up to 56 wind turbines for the project. Amid the complicated numbers and projections that filled last week's meeting, one aspect became the decision's true hinge: Will the need for renewable energy in the future justify its higher cost now?