Construction on nuclear site nears -- Five miles from Yucca Montain

Developers of a wind farm at the Nevada nuclear test site say they are nearing completion of environmental work and hope to begin construction in the spring. Although there have been reports that local utility Nevada Power had balked at buying the project's output, Tim Carlson of the Nuclear Test Site Development Corporation (NTSDC) says negotiations with the utility are continuing.

The site is overseen by the US Department of Energy, but authority for development projects must come from Congress, which has given NTSDC the responsibility for finding commercial uses for the land, according to Carlson. NTSDC is a non-profit organisation.

The wind project is only five miles from the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility where the federal government plans to store spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste -- and it sits on the 1350 square mile site where America's first nuclear weapons were tested. Yet Carlson says the only issues raised by the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is now 70% complete, has to do with Native American cultural resources. Those issues, he says, generally require planners to simply move the footprint of one or more turbines and he expects the EIS to satisfy both Native American and environmental issues.

While developers have corralled enough land to eventually support a 280 MW wind plant (Windpower Monthly, February 2001), Carlson says partners M&N Wind Power of San Diego, an affiliate of Denmark's wind turbine manufacturer NEG Micon, and Siemens Energy & Automation of Atlanta, will build the project in phases. He expects them to begin erecting the NEG Micon 900 kW or 1.5 MW turbines for the first 85 MW phase some time between April and June. Completion of that portion of the project is due before the end of next year. The project owner is Global Renewable Energy Partners, which is owned solely by Danish turbine manufacturer NEG Micon.

The limiting factor at this point, aside from there being no Nevada state legislation for encouraging utility scale wind power developments, may be available transmission. While there are existing transmission lines that run throughout the test site as well as transmission outside the site that connects to Las Vegas, the nearest population center, future phases will require some transmission improvements, according to Carlson.