Walker Ridge project moves forward
Calgary-based AltaGas is picking up support for its proposed wind farm on Walker Ridge.
The Colusa County Chamber of Commerce Wednesday endorsed the project, which calls for the construction of 29 to 42 wind turbine generators, an underground electrical collection system, a substation, a 115-kV overhead transmission line, an interconnect station and an operations and maintenance building.
AltaGas hopes to embrace wind turbine technology in the Mendocino National Forest, and has proposed the wind park on 80 acres of a 8,157 acre row managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, located on the border of Colusa and Lake counties.
"It's a really clean project," said Daniel O'Connell, chamber vice president.
The wind farm will be the first in the U.S. for the $2.6 billion natural gas generating company, which has similar projects in British Columbia.
The company hopes to have the wind power project under construction early next year, according to spokeswoman Julia Spiess.
"If all the permits are in and everything goes through as expected, we hope to have the project completed by the summer of 2012," Spiess said.
Once completed, the project will generate up to 70 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to supply about 25,000 homes with electricity, O'Connell said.
Spiess said an environmental impact report is expected to be available for public review in June, and the company is actively seeking support from local businesses and organizations.
O'Connell said the company expects a fight from an environmental group who opposes the construction of turbines in or near wilderness areas.
The biggest opposition, he said, comes from organizations seeking to preserve native plants in the area.
Wind power does not come without any environmental cost, chamber officials said. There are visual and wildlife impacts, as well as impacts that come from construction in a remote area and impacts from the transmission lines that take electricity to the purchaser.
"These things can all be mitigated," said chamber Director Ed Hulbert.
The turbines are 240 feet high, with blades 150 feet long, and each costs about $1.5 million.
The company chose Walker Ridge because the area is designated as a potential wind area in the Ukiah BLM resource management plan.
Spiess said Lake and Colusa counties will equally share in a $17 million to $20 million tax revenue stream over the life of the 20-year project.
Once completed, the plant will employ four to eight permanent, full-time employees.
The construction will also provide short-term employment, O'Connell said.
O'Connell said clean, renewable energy has become a priority on a national level, and that the project has garnered support from city and county officials, neighboring landowners and those who use the area for recreation.
"It's a good project for Colusa County," he said.