October 3, 2011
The Reuters story, “Nevada’s First Windfarm May Be the Nation’s Largest,” describes a massive wind farm designated for Nevada. The wind farm is said to have the capacity to produce 990 megawatts.
I find three surprising things in the article. First, that’s nearly 1 gigawatts of power from one wind farm! That’s the power output equivalent of a nuclear reactor. From wind!
Second, this would be the very first wind farm in Nevada. Each state bordering Nevada has wind farms. Nevada, a state with proven sustained high winds, has none. Winds are especially strong in the Mt. Wilson, Table Mountain, White Rock and Atlanta Summit areas of the state – the designated locations for this huge wind farm. According to the story, the reason no wind farms exist in Nevada is because of the difficulty in securing permits.
In a previous post, we discussed objections to wind farms reaching beyond the aesthetic. Issues include noise complaints from wind turbines located within a few miles of populated areas, and lower property values for homes next to the sites. The wind farm planned for the Nevada mountains targets remote land currently used for cattle grazing. The plan is for cattle grazing to continue once the wind farms are up and running.
In fairness, getting a wind farm of this magnitude “up and running” involves plowing access roads, installing 350 turbines, digging and burying power collection lines and communication cables, raising meteorological towers, building substations and a few operation and maintenance buildings, and running overhead transmission lines. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) is still considering the proposal.
Even if approved, this undertaking is of enormous scope and cost, and it’s on the heels of this Rochester, NY ABC affiliate, WHAM Channel 13 report, “Offshore Wind Turbine Proposal Nixed”. This report of a few days ago states that the Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) project for a wind farm around Lake Ontario was cancelled by the New York Power Authority because of the projected high costs of subsidies to become economically feasible. The GLOW project was to produce 150 megawatts of energy for the US northeast. The Nevada proposal is the equivalent of nearly seven of those!
Which brings me to the third surprise in the Reuters article. The Nevada wind farm was proposed by the US subsidiary of a European company, Good Energies. The European renewable energy investor is prepared to provide as much as $1.5 billion in development funding to North American renewable energy projects and companies. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. The world is smaller than ever, a move to renewable energy is gaining world-wide momentum, and there is potential for a large long-term profit in the business of renewable energy.
If PUCN approves the plan, any bets on how long Nevada will hold the record for the largest wind farm in the US? I’m sure the Nevada city of Las Vegas will publish the odds!