Washoe officials pledge wind farm cooperation | NevadaAppeal.com

Washoe officials pledge wind farm cooperation

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Washoe County community development officials say they plan to work closely with surrounding counties and agencies in the development of wind turbine projects both north and south of the city of Reno.

Bill Whitney, a senior planner for the Washoe County Department of Community Development, said at an information meeting Tuesday that wind power is here and governments have to be prepared for it.

“We’re definitely going to work with Storey for a couple of reasons; one they are our neighboring county and some of the turbines will be in Washoe. Great Basin Wind Inc. plans to put 73 turbines on Bureau of Land Management property from

McClellan Peak in Carson City north along the ridgeline of the Virginia Range to Geiger Summit. The turbines will be situated in Carson City, Storey and Washoe counties, meaning the company will have to obtain special use permits in all three.

“This is serious stuff and it is coming our way,” Whitney said.

Rich Hamilton, managing partner of the project, was at the meeting but could not comment because the BLM was not finished with required studies. He said he planned public meetings as soon has he got the go-ahead from the BLM.

Whitney said his office also planned to work with BLM, but said he wasn’t familiar with the possible objections of members of the Comstock Historic District and declined comment on that.

Whitney also spoke of a project planned for private land north of Reno near Fish Springs in the Pah Rah mountains and another project west of Pyramid Lake on Paiute Tribal land in the Fox range.

The nation’s wind power capacity is growing by 27 percent a year, with the nation producing 16,000 megawatts of electricity through wind power.

The wind projects in Nevada will be built on ridgelines, Whitney said, bringing some criticism from several Palomino Valley and Washoe Valley residents. He said photo simulations will let residents know what the turbines will look like before special use permits are granted.

Jack Hawkins, a Reno architect, said beauty was in the eye of the beholder.

“When I see these, I see them as beautiful because they are clean energy,” he said.

Whitney stressed that any negative impacts were mostly temporary, such as noise and road creation during construction.

He said wind farms are not as hazardous to birds as in the past, because the towers will not have lattice areas where birds can nest, and rotors will move more slowly, but it could be a danger to bats, which fly in large groups at night. Before permits will be given, avian and wildlife problems must be corrected, along with erosion, road issues and electromagnetic interference such as for cell phones and television reception.

The towers are about 450 feet high, including the rotor and will produce 3 megawatts of power each. One megawatt can power 600 homes, he said.

New technology also allows for quieter towers, with no more than 55 decibels, or what Whitney called the loudness of a “quiet conversation.” Other barriers to wind farms in Nevada are military training flight paths, since the Department of Defense won’t allow wind farms in its flight paths.

– Contact Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.