County could explode with windfarms
Idaho Power Co. is seeking regulatory approval of sales agreements with two proposed wind projects in Elmore County near Mountain Home.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission should decide soon whether or not it should approve Idaho Power's request to buy power from the Bennett Creek Windfarm LLC and Hot Springs Windfarm LLC. The developer of both projects is Glenn Ikemoto of Energy Vision LLC, based in Piedmont, Calif.
According to information provided by Ikemoto, the windfarms will be located approximately 12 miles southeast of Mountain Home. Both projects will consist of 1.25 mile-long rows of 12 Vestas V82 wind turbines, rated at 1.65 megawatts each.
The turbines are slightly larger than the existing wind machines at Fossil Gulch near Hagerman, which are visible to passersby traveling along I-84.
Vestas V82 turbines at the Bennett Creek Windfarm, and the Hot Springs Windfarm, will be approximately 262 feet tall from base to hub. Blades add another 138 feet, making the total height from base to blade tip approximately 400 feet. Combined, the windfarms will be capable of producing over 100 million kilowatt hours of energy; enough to meet the demands of 7,500 homes, Ikemoto noted.
In fossil fuel comparisons, over the life of the windfarms the turbines will produce the energy equivalent of 4 million barrels of crude oil, or 2 million tons of coal, Ikemoto noted, adding, "compared to coal-fired generation, the projects will avoid the release of over 4 million tons of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants while consuming no water or other scarce resources."
The projects were developed by Idaho Windfarms, LLC (IWF), which focuses on smaller scale projects in rural areas. The company is a consortium of biomass developers, and believes that the shift to sustainable energy is deeply rooted in farming and ranching.
Future energy resources will be derived from crop and timber residue, livestock waste, wind, solar and ethanol, all of which originate in the rural community, Ikemoto contended. IWF's efforts in Idaho are managed by John Steiner, a rancher and entrepreneur from Oreana.
"We are pleased to have the opportunity to build two significant wind energy projects in Elmore County and commend Idaho Power for its support of both renewable energy and the agricultural community," Steiner said.
"The transition of Idaho's electricity production to clean, indigenous resources will greatly benefit the rural economy. The projects must now be approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which has also shown strong support for renewable energy projects if they do not increase customer rates," said Steiner.
The 4,000 acre site is owned by Carl F. Reynolds and Sons and is currently used for irrigated agriculture. The present use of land will not change after the windfarms have been developed and are operational.
"Having wind turbines on our land won't change any of our current farming activities and they will sure help with the pumping bills. It's great to support our farm operations by generating electricity out of thin air. We won't ever complain about the wind again," said landowner Steve Reynolds.
Combined total cost of the projects is $60 million. The company anticipates the economic benefit to the county will be about $400,000 annually.
Anticipated project completion date is Dec. 31, 2007 or sooner.
At present, there are at least four windfarms planned in Elmore County. The other two are being developed by Pacific Winds, LLC. One will be located in Pasadena Valley, and the other is located on Wicher Road off Old Oregon Trail Road. The Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved a zoning designation change, and a change in the county's Bulk and Coverage Controls ordinance on those two projects.
Elmore County Commissioner Larry Rose (Glenns Ferry) said, "I'm in favor of it (wind energy) as long as they (turbines) are placed properly, and they don't hinder flights from the Air Force base. The only thing that would concern me is if they have white lights. The white lights drive people crazy. I also don't want them too close to residences."
"It's not a beautiful site to drive by and see a thousand of those things out here. So far they've been relatively small," Rose noted.
At present, the county has no ordinance addressing wind energy development. Rose said county commissioners have been trying to work on one for several years, but they keep getting sidetracked by more pressing matters.