United States

United States

Legal block to progress likely

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Up to 127 MW of repowering of wind projects in the Altamont Pass is still in the balance. Objections to the proposed developments, mainly from the owners of existing downwind wind turbines who fear their projects will be cast into a wind shadow, were dismissed by county officials at a meeting on December 3. Representatives of the downwind projects had 30 days in which to sue Alameda County and thus force it to halt the plans under the California Environmental Quality Act.

"We'll reassess, but will probably address it in court through litigation," states Rick Koebbe, president of Altamont Winds Inc, owner of about 800 downwind turbines. He says income from his turbines might be cut by as much as $1 million over five years if the plans proceed as proposed. "We support the repowering effort, but the Environmental Impact Statement is clearly defective," he adds.

According to Koebbe, legal action was their only option, because developers of the new projects seem unwilling to negotiate. Mike Zischke, a lawyer who represents the investors in 847 downwind turbines, says his clients have not yet decided what to do. "But I can tell you that they are leaning towards legal action," he adds. He estimates his clients also stand to lose $1 million because of the wake effects.

Alameda County approved the repowering plans for the Altamont Pass wind resource area -- and the related Environmental Impact Statement -- in November (Windpower Monthly, December 1998). The approval came despite arguments from the owners of existing projects that their turbines, which represent about one-third of the 5400 in the area, would lose income if the new and larger state-of-the art machines are installed. Individual development permits were issued on November 10 to three wind developers -- -Green Ridge Power LLC, Altamont Power LLC and Venture Pacific, Inc/SeaWest -- for their proposals to revamp as much as one-fifth of Altamont Pass projects.

Alameda County supervisors appear keen to support the new wind development. Also on December 3, officials voted in support of an appeal by one of the repowering developers against a levy for bird monitoring. Green Ridge had formally objected to county requirements that it pay $450 per megawatt for bird monitoring. That fee was reduced, because of Green Ridge's appeal, to $340 per megawatt.

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