Northwest Renewable News

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Wind Farm to fund community action org in Wash. January 30, 2010

The Coastal Community Action Program has announced that it has received financing for the construction of four 1.5-megawatt wind turbines on 29 privately owned acres in the hills off County Line Road in Grayland.

Known as the Wind Energy Project, the energy produced by the turbines will be sold to the Grays Harbor PUD and the profits used to fund CCAP’s many social service programs, including Meals-On-Wheels and in-home care assistance for seniors, transportation services for the disabled and HIV/AIDS medical management.

It is believed to be the first wind project developed to fund a community action organization.

“We’re excited,” Craig Dublanko, the chief financial officer for CCAP and the project’s manager, told The Daily World. “For the community, it’s a renewable energy project. For us, it’s a social service project using renewable energy.”

According to Dublanko, the non-profit social services group will receive $3 million in New Market Tax Credit financing from Shore Bank Enterprise Pacific Coast V, a partnership between Shore Bank Enterprise Cascadia in Ilwaco and Wells Fargo Community Development Corporation.

In addition, the National Community Fund I, an affiliate of United Fund Advisors in Portland, Ore., and a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis, Minn., monetized $7 million of New Markets Tax Credit, as well as renewable energy Investment Tax Credits.

“At UFA, we ensure that each of our investments has a meaningful social or environmental impact,” said Chris Hasle, a principal at United Fund Advisors, in a press release. “The CCAP project is a home run for everyone because it has tremendous returns for both the second and third bottom lines.”

The financing will supplement a $5 million state grant secured by state Sen. Jim Hargrove in 2007.

CCAP estimates the wind project will produce 13.5 million killowatt hours of clean energy annually, as well as net revenues of $500,000 per year. The lifespan of the turbines is expected to be 25 years.

“It has been a long road to reach this point,” said Troy Colley, the executive director of CCAP, in a statement, “but we see a bright future ahead with clean renewable energy not only lighting up homes, but making a difference every day in our community by supporting CCAP.”

According to Dublanko, preparation for construction of the wind turbines is under way at the site.

“We’re making sure all the pieces are in place before the delivery of the turbines happens,” he said, adding that General Electric could deliver the turbines as early as the first or second week of March, with the turbines expected to be up and running by June.

Mike Marsh, Daily World –


Regional Wind energy topic of presentation in Yakima

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:38 pm
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Wind energy will be the topic of discussion at Yakima Valley Community College on Monday.

The talk is titled, “Wind Energy and Central Washington’s Shrub-steppe: How do we achieve the state’s green energy goals while protecting our natural heritage for future generations?” The free presentation will be given by Julie Conley at 7 p.m. in Room 119 of Glenn Anthon Hall.

Conley, who has worked for conservation districts in Eastern Oregon and locally for The Nature Conservatory, will discuss ongoing efforts to guide future wind power development to areas posing the least risk to biodiversity.

Washington is now ranked fifth in the nation for installed capacity of wind power, which is key to Washington’s renewable energy portfolio and infusing rural economies with income and jobs.

The event is being offered by the YVCC Biology Department, in collaboration with the Washington Native Plant Society.

Yakima Herald-Republic



Proposed wind farm encounters resistance from City of Union January 27, 2010

Horizon Wind Energy has a long way to go to convince the City of Union that the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm is a good thing.

A city-appointed committee recently completed a 10-page study of impacts the proposed 300-megawatt facility might have on the community.

The bottom line? Union recognizes the importance of renewable energy, but fears negative effects on scenic and aesthetic values, property values, tourism and economic health, and more.

“We’re opposed if it hurts Union or Union residents in any way,” said City Administrator Sandra Patterson, who also served on the committee.

The committee recently submitted a report to the Oregon Department of Energy, whose Energy Facility Siting Council has say-so on the site certificate application.

In a cover letter to Energy Facility Siting Officer Susan Oliver, the city said it believes the wind farm would have overall negative impact, while providing minimal economic benefit.

Valerie Franklin, Horizon’s Antelope Ridge project development manager, said this week her company hopes the differences can be worked out.

“We believe there is room to work together with the City of Union to minimize impact while ensuring jobs, economic investment and energy independence for Union County,” she said.

She also said the project will yield positive economic impacts for the county as a whole.

“We are proud to call Union County home and believe that the majority of Union County citizens welcome the jobs and economic development this $600 million investment will bring,” Franklin said.

Horizon, the owner of the Elkhorn Valley Wind Farm at Telocaset, off Highway 237 between Union and North Powder, wants to build a second facility near the Union city limits.

The proposed project area stretches southeast, south and west of the city. The 300-megawatt Antelope Ridge wind farm would feature “up to” 182 tall turbines.

The committee’s report painted a scenario in which turbines surround the city 200 degrees and rise above rooftops.

The closest turbine, according to the committee, might be 1.2 miles away, and the farthest 2.4 miles. That would not be acceptable, the report said.

“People move to Union for the remarkable backdrop and the peaceful and beautiful surroundings,” the committee report said. “We do not have manufacturing or big business, what we do have is community character.”

Franklin said that Horizon’s project area map shows “study corridors” but does not show locations of turbines. She said that no decision has been made on turbine siting yet.

“We do not know at this time where turbines will go in the study corridors. However, not all study corridors are intended for turbines,” she said.

Patterson acknowledged that the project map does not show the location of turbines. However, she said the scenario in the report is a valid one.

“The map shows the location of generators, and those are what operates the turbines,” she said.

Franklin said the study corridor closest to the city, Ramo Flat Road, is actually a road improvement, and that another corridor running northwest of the city is earmarked for a transmission feeder line.

Regarding real estate values, the Union committee acknowledged there are conflicting opinions on whether values go down in areas near wind farms. The group believes the threat is there, while Horizon disagrees.

A government-funded study often cited by Horizon looks at sales of 7,500 homes in nine states and concludes there is no evidence of impacts to property values.

“We believe the concern about wind energy and property values is a solved question,” Franklin said.

But studies cited in the city’s report indicate that values can be affected. The city thinks the question needs to be looked at closely.

“We assert that sufficient conditions exist to recommend that prudent action by the siting council is appropriate,” the report said.

Union is asking that Horizon pay for a 3- to 5-year study on the local property value issue before the project proceeds.

If the study indicates property value loss, the committee says Horizon should have to compensate property owners, and compensate the city for lost tax revenues if the project is built.

As with the real estate question, the city’s committee could not produce conclusive evidence that the wind farm will hurt local tourism and economic development.

On the other hand, it said there is reason enough to believe that it will.

The committee cited a report from Scotland that says wind farms there have a negative effect on tourism.

More than half of the people interviewed in the Scottish study said they thought wind power spoils the look of a countryside, and one-quarter said they would avoid parts of the country with wind developments.

Horizon Wind Energy, the owner of this wind farm at Telocaset, wants to build a second facility near Union.

But Franklin presents an opposite view, saying some wind farms have turned out to be tourist attractions.

As an example, she said the Wild Horse Wind Farm in Kittitas County, Wash., experienced more than 18,000 national and international visitors in 2008.

Union’s committee said the city has worked hard to bring in tourists and provide amenities, and that wind power threatens the community’s attractiveness.

Some 44 of Union’s buildings are on the historic register, grant money has been received for street maintenance, Buffalo Peak golf course is gaining as an attraction and land around the golf course is being rezoned for higher-end development, the Union report noted.

“We do all this in an ongoing effort to become increasingly attractive to tourists and future property owners,” said the committee report. “Set and setting are a significant part of our efforts.”

The committee’s report asks that the project either be completely suspended or that Horizon be required to pay compensation to offset negative effects on tourism.

In order to build the project, Horizon must meet standards set by the Energy Facility Siting Council. The standards are designed to protect natural resources, ensure public health and safety and protect against adverse environmental impacts.

According to EFSC’s website, the standards ask three fundamental questions:

• Does the applicant have the appropriate abilities to build this energy facility?

• Is the site suitable?

• Would the facility have adverse impacts on the environment and the community?

Horizon filed its preliminary application for a site certificate back in October. On Dec. 30, the Oregon Dept. of Energy notified the company the application is incomplete.

The ODE’s 28-page Request for Additional Information asks clarification on the number and the height of towers, impacts on fish and wildlife, effects on scenery, noise levels and a host of other issues.

The request notes that the City of Union and numerous other Grande Ronde Valley residents have expressed concerns about visual impacts.

The energy department said it is required to make sure Horizon takes “practicable measures” to reduce environmental and scenic impact.

Those measures could include using underground transmission lines and designing the facility to minimize visual impacts. The department asked Horizon for more information on the visibility of the project, preferably in the form of a 3D simulation.

Franklin said the state response is a “normal and routine part” of the siting process. She said Horizon will be working hard to resolve all unanswered questions and concerns.

“We expect it be an iterative process over the next few months while we pull together the information EFSC needs, employing the expertise within our company and quality consultants,” she said.

Union, meanwhile, is planning town hall meetings. Patterson said the city hasn’t surveyed residents on the proposed project, but believes people will oppose it once they learn more details.

“We’ve talked to a few, and we’ve found that most of them don’t understand the size of the project. When we tell them, they say, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ and they don’t want it,” she said.

Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer –


Land board approves wind project near Big Timber January 20, 2010

Filed under: Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:43 pm
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The state land board has agreed to lease land for a new wind power project near Big Timber.

The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation says that the lease covers 640 acres of state school trust land. The state will get a minimum of $21,000 a year from the lease, or more if the project is fully developed.

The Coyote Wind Farm proposes to place eight of its 44 turbines on state land. The 79-megawatt wind farm is now trying to line up contracts for the electricity.

The proposed wind farm, being built by Enerfin Energy Co., is the third major wind-power project in Montana to be approved on state land.

The land board unanimously approved the plan Tuesday.

The Associated Press –


Landowners, developers laying groundwork for community wind farm in Mont. January 18, 2010

In the lull before the storm, the monstrous turbines at Invenergy’s Judith Gap Wind Farm stood still, their blades idle. Less than 20 miles to the northwest, however, a breeze scraped across the snow-crusted benchlands.

“The wind potential is here,” said Pat McNulty, who runs cattle on the northeast end of the Little Belt Mountains. “It’s a unique wind, and it’s here most of the time.”

McNulty and about 30 of his neighbors are hoping to harvest that wind in Montana’s premiere utility-scale community wind farm. As projected, the wind farm would stretch across 55,000 acres of land in central Montana. Ultimately, its turbines would crank up to 500 megawatts of power — nearly four times the production capacity at the neighboring Judith Gap facility. Developers say the project will most likely be developed in phases of 100-plus megawatts, perhaps in several clusters of turbines, over the next five to eight years. At an estimated $2 million per kilowatt, the wind farm would have a $1 billion price tag at full buildout.

The new project — dubbed Judith Highlands Energy LLC — is yet in its infancy with no guarantee it will come to fruition. The parties involved, however, believe prospects are good and they are willing to be patient.

“This is not going to happen overnight,” McNulty said. “But we’ve been really pleased with the way this is going.”

Community wind

What sets Judith Highlands apart is not just its size, but its community-based approach. To appreciate the difference, one only has to speak with landowners who have dealt with the “gold rush mentality” that typifies some in the industry. Too often property owners have been pressed to sign sketchy contracts, offered rock-bottom lease prices and told not to compare their deal with their neighbor’s.

The community approach caught the attention of Rhyno Stinchfield and Steve Tyrrel, CEO and chief operating officer, respectively, of Billings-based Montana Wind Resources LLC. Both long-time proponents of sustainable energy, they were looking for wind development opportunities when they crossed trails with National Wind LLC.

Minnesota-based National Wind specializes in community wind development on a utility scale. The business was established six years ago and now boasts more than a dozen community wind farms in various stages of development, mostly in the Midwest.

“Nobody is doing community wind at this level,” Stinchfield said.

Stinchfield and Tyrrel welcomed the thought of working with an American company — wind development in Montana is dominated by European firms — that would keep stimulus dollars closer to home. But they were especially impressed with National Wind’s community-based model.

“The landowner has the opportunity to participate in the sale of electricity, on top of wind turbine and land payments,” Stinchfield said. “That’s what, in our minds, makes this a truly community project.”

With fewer dollars going out of state or out of country, community wind farms have a higher potential for re-injecting dollars into the local economy. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota concluded that community wind projects have five times the local value added as a corporate wind farm and create 3.4 times as many jobs. Stinchfield says his numbers indicate that roughly 20 percent of the money generated from a community wind project stays local, as compared to 6 percent for a “traditional” development.

And that’s huge, he said, when you’re talking millions of dollars in power generation each year.

“Steve and I have enjoyed working with Montana ranchers and landowners over the past several years,” Stinchfield said. “However, nothing we’ve seen yet has possessed the economic potential of Judith Highlands.”

Local representation

Long before Stinchfield and Tyrrel targeted the Garneill/Buffalo/Hobson area, landowners there had been talking with wind developers. When plans stalled for lack of agreement over contract terms, several locals weren’t willing to abandon the concept.

“We had a small group already meeting,” McNulty said. “We had been working our way up the learning curve.”

So, the potential was ripe when one of McNulty’s neighbors — an individual whose land is a part of the Judith Highlands footprint — happened upon Stinchfield and Tyrrel at last spring’s Montana Agri-Trade Exposition in Billings. He found the notion of a community wind farm appealing and his neighbors agreed.

“That community model, that’s not just a phrase,” said David Dover, who owns land within the boundary of the Judith Highlands proposal. “There’s a local board of directors, so locals get representation.”

Over the ensuing months, the small nucleus of nine landowners grew to 30. A few more may be added when more detailed wind data is in. Ranging in size from a quarter-section to 10,000 acres, their properties straddle portions of Judith Gap, Golden Valley, Fergus and Wheatland counties. In accordance with the community model, all will receive some payment, even if no turbines are placed on their land.

“Part of the fairness of that,” Tyrrel said, “is that, if your land is within the footprint, it’ll be impacted.”

Locals also like the fact that they’re encouraged to discuss among the group the details of their contracts.

“You know exactly what your neighbor signed because it’s the same for you as it is for him,” Dover said. “And we have time. They’re not pushing paper at us.”

Enough to share

Although the community model keeps dollars at home, electricity generated from Judith Highlands will almost certainly be shipped to West Coast markets.

“Montana isn’t really in need of wind power,” Stinchfield said, noting that Montana won’t have any problem meeting its 2015 target of 15 percent renewable energy. He also points out that the going rate for electricity in California is twice that in Montana.

Tyrrel counters the notion that by exporting wind power, rates for Montanans will increase.

“That’s like saying, if we export wheat, we end up paying too much for bread,” he said. “This is an export commodity and should be looked at that way.”

Above all, Tyrrel is enthused that a Montana resource has the potential to decrease the nation’s reliance on foreign energy. It’s American, it’s domestic and it isn’t influenced by international crises, he said.

“Wind has value because it cannot be affected by commodity prices, like coal and natural gas are,” he said. “Once you document a wind regime, you have a known entity that can extend out indefinitely.”

McNulty said the landowners understand that the power generated on their property will light homes and run air conditioners in Los Angeles. But it will also keep create local jobs and boost the local economy.

But, there are risks. There’s the risk that the $100,000-plus spent erecting two meteorological towers last month won’t reveal the type of wind resource they’d hoped for. There’s the risk that the presence of sage grouse or some threatened species will scuttle plans. And there are risks that financing won’t materialize, or there’ll be no way to move the energy to market.

“Basically all of the transmission in Montana has been spoken for,” McNulty said. “And as projects do happen, how much capacity can we get?”

Problems all solvable

Wind farm development may be a roll of the dice, but Gov. Brian Schweitzer believes Judith Highlands stands out from the 50-plus wind projects currently at some stage of dream-to-development in the Big Sky state.

“Some will never be built, and we never know which,” he said, applauding the community concept. “But this one looks very promising.”

Regarding transmission, Schweitzer refers to a project proposed by Grasslands Renewable Energy of Bozeman. The project would tie together wind generation from the eastern two-thirds of the state and deliver it to a hub in Townsend, from where it would be shipped to West Coast markets. If the Grasslands project is realized, it would have the capacity to export as much power as Montana currently generates, Schweitzer said.

Stinchfield admits that transmission presents the biggest hurdle, but he continues to work with transmission developers, including Carl Borgquist of Grasslands.

Regarding financing, Schweitzer commends the developers for actively pursuing Montana investors. While the state does not finance private endeavors, he said it does strive to match developers with financiers.

The Judith Highlands project represents National Wind’s second venture in the Rocky Mountain area, the first being in Colorado.



MATL could unleash torrent of wind projects

Filed under: Montana,Renewable Energy Projects,Utility Companies,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 7:38 pm
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A biting wind whipped across the snow-covered Montana prairie as Clayton Larsen and John Mattheis took soil samples from 30 feet below the surface north of Conrad late last week.

The men, who work for SK Geotechnical in Billings, are helping to build the $215 million, 230-kilovolt Montana Alberta Tie Line — a transmission line that could be the key to the future of wind development in the region.

With calls for more renewable energy increasing, new plain-looking pole-and-wire projects such as MATL are sprouting up in anticipation of the construction of more eye-catching wind farms.

The first stage of construction of MATL, which will carry up to 300 megawatts in each direction, began this month with soil testing.

The project is part of more than $2 billion in proposed transmission projects in Montana that could progress this year, with the lines a direct response to demands from wind developers who are banking on the lines to ship power from the boondocks to big cities.

The U.S. government also has a big stake in the success of MATL and other lines like it.

Last year, $3.25 billion in low-cost loans, which were part of the federal stimulus bill, was approved for 15 Western and Midwestern states, specifically to build transmission lines that ship renewable energy.

Tonbridge Power Co., MATL’s developer, was the first company to receive a loan, which could be as much as $161 million.

The Toronto-based company was one of about 200 developers that applied for funding, said Bob Harris, regional manager of the Upper Great Plains Region of the Billings-based Western Area Power Administration, which includes most of Montana, the Dakotas and parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

WAPA is in negotiations with additional developers about loans for other transmission projects.

“It tells me there’s a lot of interest in renewable energy development — and typically they’re not close to the load,” Harris said.

Without new transmission projects, all the talk about building wind farms and developing other forms of green energy will end up being mostly hot air, according to industry experts.

In the past, power generation facilities such as coal-fired power plants typically were constructed close to the people who would use the power, Harris said.

However, the power delivery model is changing.

States are passing laws requiring the use of more renewable energy, but that green power often is located in remote rural areas such as windy Montana, while the demand is thousands of miles away in big cities. That generation model requires new transmission lines to ship the power.

“We are sure this is going forward,” said Bob Williams of Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., the Tonbridge Power subsidiary in charge of the construction of MATL.

MATL first to fruition

MATL is the first of the proposed power transmission projects in Montana to proceed from blueprints to construction.

Four years in the making, work on the line began the first week of January with soil testing.

“We’re just drilling a soil boring for the turning point for their line,” SK Geotechnical’s Larsen said Thursday, before tromping through the snow and climbing over a fence to reach the drilling rig.

The most critical testing areas are where the line changes direction, such as the location north of Conrad where SK Geotechnical worked Thursday, Williams said.

Tonbridge has received the permits and financing it needs to build the line, which Williams said will take 18 months to construct, with the first poles going in the ground in May.

Poles will be planted in farm fields along a 214-mile stretch of windswept farmland between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta.

Its immediate impact will be transporting what is now stranded wind power in Montana north to Alberta markets, where peak demand is 10,000 megawatts. The line will be energized sometime in 2011.

Williams said negotiations with the more than 300 landowners along the route in Alberta and Montana have picked up. Easements need to be negotiated before poles are installed, and final engineering is occurring now in advance of physical construction.

Three wind developers have purchased the shipping rights to the line.

Tonbridge officials said that once the transmission line is finished, $1 billion worth of wind farm investment could spring up along its path.

“It’s all about transmission,” said Bill Alexander, chief development officer for NaturEner USA and NaturEner Canada. NaturEner already has purchased shipping rights on MATL. “Markets are coming back. Energy prices are strengthening. It’s now just a matter of getting the transmission (capacity) to move the energy to market.”

Project north of Cut Bank

At a cost of $800 million, NaturEner plans to construct a 309-megawatt wind farm called Rim Rock between U.S. Highway 2 and the Canadian border once MATL is done, Alexander said.

The Rim Rock project would be due north of the 210-megawatt, $500 million Glacier Wind Farm that NaturEner completed last year in Toole and Glacier counties. Existing transmission is shipping that power to out-of-state markets, including California.

Mark Jacobson, director of business development for Chicago-based Invenergy, which owns the Judith Gap wind farm in Montana, said the No. 1 hurdle facing wind development is a lack of transmission, but building lines is a challenge. Obtaining the necessary permits and financing are the biggest obstacles to building new transmission, he said.

“If it was easy, everybody would be doing it,” he added.

Tonbridge’s approach possibly could serve as a model, Jacobson said. Tonbridge formed specifically to construct transmission projects, charging developers to use the lines.

South of Great Falls

With MATL under way, the company has turned its attention south of Great Falls.

In November, Tonbridge announced it was partnering with Irish wind developer Gaelectric, which has an office in Great Falls, to study a 100-mile transmission line between Great Falls and Townsend. That line, called the Green Line, would be a southern extension of the MATL project.

Even after the construction of MATL, Jacobson said a transmission logjam exists at Great Falls, preventing power from being shipped south to reach bigger transmission lines that eventually go out of state.

Invenergy, which already owns space on MATL, is in discussions with Tonbridge about securing capacity on the Green Line, Jacobson said.

“I think that’s a very strong idea for solving the transmission problems in Montana and providing export opportunities,” he said.

Montana currently produces about 375 megawatts of wind power. The state’s overall electricity production is 5,445 megawatts.

Approximately 4,882 megawatts of new power generation projects are waiting for access to NorthWestern Energy’s transmission queue, with about half of that total tied to wind farms, company spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.

That’s more wind electricity than the approximately 1,900 megawatts the state’s users currently consume from all sources.

Nationwide, almost 300,000 megawatts of wind projects are waiting in line to connect to the electrical grid as a result of inadequate transmission capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

NorthWestern has big plans

In addition to MATL, NorthWestern is proposing new lines to meet demand from wind developers, including the $1 billion, 500-kilovolt Mountain States Transmission Intertie from Townsend to Jerome, Idaho.

Rapkoch said the utility is expecting a final decision on the line from the state Department of Environmental Quality this year, and hopes to begin construction soon after that, with the goal of energizing the line by 2015.

NorthWestern also is studying construction of new “collector” lines, or smaller transmission lines, in five locations in Montana where interest is heavy in wind development, including north of Great Falls. Each of the collector projects would cost as much as $220 million. The goal is to have those upgrades completed by 2014.

“New transmission needs new generation and new generation needs new transmission,” said Rapkoch, comparing the question of whether to build new transmission or wind farms to the classic chicken-and-the-egg question.

Before proceeding with the risk of constructing the new collector lines, NorthWestern is planning an “open season” later this year in which the utility will accept bids from wind developers interested in reserving space, Rapkoch said.

NorthWestern is planning to pass along the expense of building the new transmission lines to the shippers and not existing ratepayers, Rapkoch said.

Cascade County would be seeing explosive “Texas-type” growth in wind energy if not for the physical limitations of the existing transmission system, according to Cascade County Commissioner Peggy Beltrone, who developed the county’s wind promotion program.

In Texas, 8,200 megawatts of wind power are on the grid — the most in the nation.

Beltrone called MATL a bright spot in the short term, but said large-scale wind power will be stranded until multi-state cost allocation and permitting issues are addressed and new transmission is built in the West.

“In the meantime, there will be a push to look for strategic, smaller opportunities on the existing system,” she said.

Karl Puckett, Great Falls Tribune –


Blaine County gives nod to residential wind turbines January 14, 2010

Filed under: Idaho,Legal/Courts,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:01 pm
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Kim Johnson counts herself as an environmentalist who’s always seeking ways to make her Hailey home more self-sufficient and earth-friendly.

So when she started researching residential-scale wind turbines as a possible way to pull less power off the electrical grid, she was surprised to find information that turned her opinion against them.

Johnson was one of several Blaine County residents to testify before county commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, during a hearing in which commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance regulating where and how county homeowners can install wind turbines.

“This ordinance doesn’t force anybody to put up a wind tower,” said Commissioner Larry Schoen, who has investigated wind power at his own Bellevue Triangle-area ranch. He said anyone asking to put up a wind tower would be well advised to do as he did: conduct study of wind speeds over their home and do a cost/benefit analysis.

Schoen also addressed audience concerns that the ordinance — which allows some wind turbines on large properties to be approved administratively, while others on smaller parcels must go through a public conditional-use permit process — doesn’t give the public enough input.

“We have struck a fair balance,” he said, acknowledging that the county wants to encourage alternative energy use when appropriate, and to make the process easy and accountable.

Some in the audience were proponents of the ordinance, saying the existing power transmission system has serious environmental and operational weaknesses, citing last month’s Christmas outage. They argued residents should be allowed to experiment with alternatives.

Other speakers said exploring alternative energy creation was great, but that wind turbines have specific weaknesses that make them inappropriate for the county. These include the impact they would have on views, the lack of good wind in the valley, and that construction of the turbines is not an environmentally friendly process so their overall impact on the planet is negative, not positive.

“There’s so much spin around this stuff, no pun intended,” Johnson said of her research. “Sometimes what they’re touting as green sounds good, but it doesn’t make sense.”

Johnson isn’t likely to be among those who take advantage of the wind turbine ordinance, and commissioners have said interest in installing turbines has been expressed by only a few homeowners. After the ordinance has been in place for a while, they have said, they will gauge how the public has received it and consider changes to the law.

Ariel Hansen, Magic Valley News Times