Washoe County Reviews Wind Farm Plans

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Washoe County officials are reviewing plans by a Las Vegas firm to build the state's first large wind farm above Warm Springs Valley in the Pah Rah Mountains north of Reno.

Officials with Nevada Wind say if Washoe County approves the $300 million project, the 20 to 50 turbines near Virginia Peak could be under construction next year, and begin generating power by 2010.

Tim Carlson, a partner in the company, said blades as long as 125 feet would rotate on towers 250 feet to 300 feet tall, and produce 150 megawatts of electricity - enough to power about 125,000 homes.

The company hopes to sell the electricity to Sierra Pacific Power Co.

County planners are reviewing Nevada Wind's recently submitted application for a special-use permit.

John Berkich, assistant county manager overseeing renewable energy initiatives, said he expects hearings would be held by the planning commission and county commission in the fall.

Commissioners have made development of alternative energy sources a priority, viewing it as an economic development strategy and a means to ensure enough energy for the region.

Warm Springs Valley is dotted with homes on 40-acre lots.

Hugh Ezzell, vice chairman of the Warm Springs Citizens Advisory Board, said most people in the valley north of Spanish Springs won't care about the project.

"We need more wind in Nevada," he said. "This is a fairly remote spot. There's a general feeling in the valley that people can do whatever they want on their properties: 'I don't bother you. You don't bother me.'

"There's going to be a few squawkers in the valley. They are going to be mad about anything brought into the valley," he said.

Carlson said the company has obtained lease agreements or options from about 15 property owners, representing 95 percent of the sites needed. Elsewhere in Nevada, the company intends to develop eight other sites near Ely and Pioche that involve negotiations and studies with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Carlson said the company was drawn to Washoe County because it has made alternative energy resources a priority.

"It takes county leadership," he said.

With another company as a partner, Sierra Pacific is developing its own 200-megawatt, wind project called China Mountain straddling the Idaho border near Jackpot. Construction is expected to start in 2010 or 2011 and also involves the BLM.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates wind power could provide up to 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030.

Carlson's partner, John Johansen, has been president of the American Wind Energy Association and managed more than 20 wind projects in California, including at Tehachapi Pass near Los Angeles and San Gorgonio Pass, the nation's first wind farm, near Palm Springs.

He was president of a company that replaced 2,200 older wind turbines at Altamont Pass in the East Bay area with 70 units. He also oversaw a transmission line project to carry 400 megawatts of wind energy into Los Angeles County.

Carlson was executive director of the Nevada Economic Development Commission under Gov. Bob Miller and oversaw a similar operation for southern Nevada for years before that.


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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