United States

United States

Dispute stops repowering of wind plants in Altamont Pass

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In California, lawsuits have been filed to halt current plans to repower much of the Altamont Pass. The dispute is over whether the installation of state-of-the-art wind turbines will cause wake effects which harm the productivity of the existing wind farms down wind of the new sites.

The plaintiffs -- the owners and financial backers of downwind turbines -- say they could lose more than a million dollars in income over the next five years if the county approved plans to repower as much as 127 MW are allowed to proceed.

More specifically, in their complaints filed against the Alameda County authority in late December, they contend that the issue of wake effects was not analysed properly in the environmental impact report on repowering the area.

"The county identified impacts but offered no mitigation," says Mike Zischke, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs. His client consists of the financial lenders to the owners of 847 turbines. Amongst the lenders are Toronto Dominion Bank, ABN AMRO Bank NV, and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co.

The other civil lawsuit was filed by entities known as WindPower Partners 87 and 88, which are partnerships that own 800 turbines in the Altamont Pass.

Late last autumn the county finally approved a plan for repowering in the pass. It allowed the larger modern turbines to be installed because they would not increase the installed capacity of the area -- and as long as each developer takes certain precautions to protect birds. On November 10, Alameda County then approved permits for three major developers with plans to repower, Green Ridge Power LLC, Altamont Power LLC, and Venture Pacific, Inc/SeaWest (Windpower Monthly, November and December 1998).

The lawsuits mean that repowering is unlikely to start in the area in the near future. Such disputes often take about one year to be resolved in the courts. Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the parties are also required to try to hammer out an out-of-court settlement.

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