A windmill project proposed for the Virginia Range could be the first in Nevada when finished, but it's not the only one in the works.
According to Sierra Pacific Power Co. spokesman Fay Anderson, there are several locations in Nevada being studied for wind-generated electricity projects, the farthest along outside of the Virginia Range project being in Elko County.
There also are projects proposed for Lincoln, Clark and White Pine counties.
U.S. Department of Energy officials have estimated that 20 percent of the nation's power could come from wind within 20 years, and that turbines in Nevada could power a million homes.
But early failures such as that at California's Altamont Pass, one of the country's first wind farms, hurt the industry by killing golden eagles and other birds, and brought it under fire from environmentalists.
The Virginia Range Project, proposed by Rich Hamilton of Great Basin Wind, would involve 72 large wind turbines extending from McClellan Peak in Carson City to Geiger Summit in Storey County, on Bureau of Land Management land in Washoe and Storey counties.
Hamilton said the new turbines are higher and slower than the old ones, and not a danger to birds.
"At Altamont Pass, they put the turbines on lattice-style bases which were very attractive to birds," he said. He added the first turbines were much faster than modern ones, and more likely to harm birds.
According to BLM realty officer Ken Nelson, the testing and the application are completed, and the locations of the turbines were based on where the wind was strongest.
All projects must go through a two-year environmental impact study, Nelson said, and that begins once an application is filed.
But the Virginia Range project is coming under scrutiny by Storey County officials concerned about its impact on the Comstock Historic District towns of Virginia City, Gold Hill and Silver City.
Joe Curtis, a member of the Comstock Historic District board said at a recent meeting much of the proposed area will fall within the district.
"We out to be able to put a kibosh on that," he said.
Curtis also said he recalled a low humming noise last summer and tracked it to a test windmill between Bullion Peak and Mt. Davidson, and that the noise could be heard in town.
Virginia City resident Christianne Strange said her mother lives in the Poconos in Pennsylvania and windmills there interfered with television and cell-phone reception, and also were an eyesore, which led to a drop in property values.
"This is what I'm dealing with in Pennsylvania," she said. "Fight it as much as you can."
According to Comstock Historic District administrator Bert Bedeau, some of the project is in the district and some isn't, and he didn't have jurisdiction for anything that isn't, though the State Historic Preservation Office would have a say.
State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James said BLM will have to show no adverse effect on the Comstock Historic District and said they would meet with the office later this month.
Hamilton said any noise was minimal and would not be heard in Virginia City.
He said there still are many studies to go before the project is close to becoming a reality and he expects to hold public meetings to gain local input. He hopes to begin by 2010.
China Mountain project
The China Mountain project, in Elko and Twin Falls (Idaho) counties, has already hosted two public meetings and is expected to be completed by 2012.
Anderson said Sierra Pacific Resources and Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. are in discussion toward an agreement to jointly develop and operate the China Mountain Project located at the Nevada-Idaho border on a combination of federal, state and private lands.
China Mountain project is expected to generate more than 200 megawatts of electricity. It would include 185 wind turbines up to 413 feet high crossing more than 30,000 acres.
The project will go through an environmental review process as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the same one that Great Basin Wind must undergo.
Hunters also concerned
Environmentalists and history buffs are not the only groups concerned about the impact of the turbines. The proposed winds site in Lincoln County is being opposed by hunters concerned about elk and deer habitat.
Edison International, partnering with Nevada Wind sought to build several hundred turbines on Wilson and Table mountains several years ago, but was sharply criticized by hunter groups at public hearings.
Lincoln County Commission Chairwoman Ronda Hornbeck was concerned that trails to the site would have to be widened to carry the turbines, and chase away the game, and that hunters' rifles could damage the windmills.
The site still is a possibility, however, with a development proposal submitted to BLM and a two-year environmental study underway.
Clark County has challenged a proposed wind farm 10 miles from a planned airport, and the U.S. Court of Appeals of Washington DC has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to reconsider allowing the project.
Eighty-three turbines were planned for Table Mountain, and local officials are concerned they could impact air safety or disrupt radar systems.
Seven wind farm projects are proposed for White Pine County, with Nevada Wind Co. involved in three of them.
LS Power Development is working with Nevada Wind, hoping to develop a 200-megawatt wind farm in the northern Egan Range near Telegraph Peak.
Nevada Wind Co. has also proposes a 4,470-acre project on the North Egan Range, which is still being monitored. The company expects to submit an application this year.
The company also is monitoring on its right-of-way a 4,250-acre project area for the Antelope Range and the South Schell Creek range.
North Spring Valley has three companies looking to build wind three farms, including Spring Valley Wind, which has submitted an application to BLM for a 7,680-acre project; Invenergy, which is considering two areas of 4,400 and 4,900 acres; and Boulevard Associates which is considering project on 67,771 acres.
Boulevard Associations also is considering developing a wind farm on 18,254 acres in Copper Flat.
Power Partners is monitoring wind for a proposed 4,528-acre site in the Diamond Range, and Enexco is monitoring wind for a 4,536-acre project in the North Egan range
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or call 881-7351.