Company hopes to harness Walker Ridge
Walker Ridge in western Colusa County may be the home of a future wind farm.
Calgary-based AltaGas hopes to embrace wind turbine technology in the Mendocino National Forest, and has proposed a wind park on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, located on the border of Colusa and Lake counties.
AltaGas — a $2.6 billion natural gas generating company — hopes to have the wind power project under construction by 2012, but fears the growing trend in alternative power could bog the company down in red tape.
"BLM is swamped with renewable energy applications," said Peter Eaton, project development director.
If all goes well for the company, 29 to 42 turbines will twirl on about 80 acres of a 8,157 acre row, and generate up to 70 mega watts of renewable energy.
"It's enough energy to supply the electricity needs of about 25,000 homes," Eaton said.
The Colusa County Board of Supervisors expressed early support for the idea, although the project will have to go through environmental review and full permitting processes before it is approved.
Wind power does not come without any environmental cost, county officials said. There are visual and wildlife impacts, impacts that come from any construction in a remote area, and impacts from the transmission lines that take electricity to the purchaser.
The turbines are 240 feet high, with blades 150 feet long. Each costs about $1.5 million, possibly paid in part by stimulus money provided by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Eaton said.
Eaton said the company chose Walker Ridge because the area is designated as a potential wind area in the Ukiah BLM resource management plan.
"Five years of wind data supports Walker Ridge as a good project site," Eaton said. "It's not screaming wind, but decent wind. The turbines will be running about 25 to 30 percent of the time."
Once completed, the plant will employ about four to eight permanent, full-time employees, and will generate sales tax on power sold to the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. station north of Maxwell. The revenue will be split equally between Lake and Colusa counties.
The construction will also provide short-term employment, Eaton said.
The wind farm, which will take about eight months to build, will be designed for 20 to 30 years of use, Eaton said.
Contact Susan Meeker at 458-2121 or email@example.com.