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Big horn sheep and Air Force concerns -- Snags for Nevada 175 MW

Two wind farms slated for Nevada have hit obstacles that could slow each of them as they move toward construction. The state's Commission on Wildlife and Natural Resources (CWNR) wants to delay the 90 MW Table Mountain plant, being developed south of Las Vegas by Global Renewable Energy Partners, while it studies the project's impacts on Big Horn sheep. An 85 MW project, also owned by Global Renewable, that has long been on the drawing board for the Nevada Test Site (NTS) could be delayed even longer. The US Air Force, concerned the wind turbines could interfere with its radar as it performs on site manoeuvres, has shut the project down.

"We're still trying to figure out what hit us," says Tim Carlson, a consultant to Global Renewable, a project development subsidiary of Danish wind turbine maker NEG Micon. He says the military has been appraised of the NTS project from the beginning, so the latest roadblock was a complete surprise, especially since the Air Force and Department of Defence had been supportive. Carlson, however, believes the problem can be resolved if the Air Force will sit down to talk through the issues.

The Table Mountain project could still be completed by mid-2003, as planned, if the state can complete a formal wildlife policy specifically for wind projects that would satisfy the CWNR. It would be similar to policies Nevada already has for such activities as mining, says Carlson, who is on the state's Renewable Energy Task Force. "We did not pay enough attention to them in the beginning," Carlson says of the CWNR. "We should have and we are now trying to correct that."

Global Renewable is talking with several buyers for the energy from Table Mountain, Carlson says, including Nevada Power, but it has yet to sign an agreement. It agreed a power purchase deal with Nevada Power for the NTS site earlier this year, but that could be voided if the project moves to another part of the state.

Global Renewable Energy Partners and BP Capital, a company controlled by Texas oil billionaire Boone Pickens, formed a partnership known as Power Star in April to build and finance the two projects (Windpower Monthly, May 2002). Both projects were scheduled for completion in July 2003, but the Table Mountain wind farm is now likely to be the only one running in Nevada before wind's federal production tax credit expires at the end of next year. Both projects will use NEG Micon 1.5 MW units.

The NTS site is eight kilometres from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility, where the US government plans to store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

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