U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, continuing a clean-energy push, said Wednesday he has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to get the military to finally decide whether to support potential wind-farm sites in Nevada.
Reid said Gates now understands the "bureaucratic shuffle" that has led to long delays for wind-farm developers seeking a military sign-off on their plans, and will ask Navy and Air Force secretaries to "see if someone can make a decision."
"Let's have someone make a decision and not give people the run-around for months and months and months," Reid, D-Nev., added during a telephone interview.
The big military concern in Nevada, where 86 percent of the land is controlled by the federal government, is that electricity-producing wind farms on mountain ridges or other windy areas might interfere with radar used to track aircraft, Reid said.
The concern about radar has held up efforts to build wind farms because the military has restricted airspace over millions of acres of the federally controlled lands.
But Reid said there are technological solutions to the problem that have been used elsewhere.
"If our technology is not sufficient enough to see a windmill that's 60 feet in the air, or however tall they are, then we're in real bad trouble militarily," Reid said.
"We're not talking about wind farms in the middle of the Nevada Test Site or the Nellis (Air Force) gunnery range or the Fallon Naval Air Station," Reid said, adding that some of the proposed wind farms would be many miles away from any military bases in the state.
Reid said he knew of two proposed wind-energy projects in Nevada
that would produce 600 megawatts of electrical power.
He said such clean-energy sources would help to reduce the need for polluting coal-fired power plants.
In recent weeks, Reid has come out against new coal-fired power plants in Nevada and called for the development of alternative energy sources such as solar, geothermal and wind generators.
Reid also has introduced a bill requiring most power transmitted over a proposed cross-state power line to come from alternative energy sources.
His measure would require Sierra Pacific Resources to ensure that 75 percent of the power transmitted over its planned high-voltage line comes from alternative energy sources.
If Sierra, parent of Reno-based Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Las Vegas-based Nevada Power, didn't build the line, the bill by Reid, D-Nev., gives bonding authority to the Western Area Power Administration so it can do the job.