Study Could Lead to Wind Power Plant in Pine Nut Range

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Officials will be testing the winds in the Pine Nut Mountains east of here to determine whether they're strong enough and consistent enough to produce electric power.

The joint effort of the Bureau of Land Management in Carson City and SeaWest WindPower Inc. based in San Diego will build two monitoring towers next spring, one in Douglas County and one in Lyon County. If those show promise, a third one will be constructed in Douglas County.

The company wants to determine if there's sufficient wind activity in western Nevada to warrant development of a power-generating site.

While Nevada is notoriously windy, its breezes aren't always as consistent as the ones that drive wind generators in parts of Southern California.

However, Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson said in Reno last month that nearly half of the 48 million acres of land in Nevada managed by the BLM show potential for commercial wind production.

In its application with the BLM, SeaWest said 50-meter high towers are planned for locations on the ridgeline of the mountain range east of Carson and Eagle valleys.

"Preliminary studies show it's worth our while to take a more detailed look in the Pine Nut Mountains," said Steve Steinhour, the company's vice president of development.

He said it could take up to two years for the company to decide if it wants to pursue building a wind farm in the mountains.

No cost estimates have been made, but officials said no public funds were involved.

Environmental hearings and other public meetings would be required before the company could build the alternative power plants.

Chuck Pope, assistant manager for nonrenewable resources in the BLM's Carson City Field Office, said he doesn't anticipate any major concerns with the application for wind-measuring towers.

If SeaWest pursues development of a wind energy facility, Pope said a number of issues would have to be dealt with including plans for power lines and access roads.

SeaWest, founded in 1982, has installed some 3,230 turbines in the United States and Europe.

It has wind energy production facilities at three California sites - Altamont Pass, Tehachapi Pass and San Gorgonio - in addition to locations in Oregon and Wyoming.

The company has applied for monitoring towers in the Osgood Mountains northeast of Winnemucca and the Egan Range north of Ely, Steinhour told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

He said wind energy has been examined as a possible energy source in Nevada for at least 10 years.