Down on the (wind) farm

The Jan. 6 meeting of the Washoe County Planning Commission had one item on its agenda—the wind farm proposed for the Pah Rah Mountains. The developers would be there to make their case for approval. Also in attendance would be the Palomino Valley locals who have questions about the project and problems with the answers they’ve received. I was curious to see if the complaints of the opponents were lightweight, lame and easily dismissed. It was not a surprise when it turned out they weren’t.

I think it’s a great project. I think Nevada Wind is headed by knowledgable, competent people who can get this farm built and running. I think giant wind turbines, far from being hideous, would look positively spiffy up in the Pah Rahs. But, I should add, I don’t live anywhere near this place.

The locals who do did not, to their credit, assail the commission with NIMBY trifles. They showed up, for the most part, with an impressive range of questions and observations that had some weight. They aren’t against the wind farm per se, but they do want answers and assurances. They should get them.

Construction of the farm is scheduled to go on for eight to 10 months. The truck traffic will be considerable, to say the least. The impact upon Quaking Aspen, the road that leads up from the valley floor to the site of the 44 wind turbines, will be substantial. The trucks will be making hundreds and hundreds of trips up this winding canyon road, transporting huge, unwieldy turbine blades. Will this dirt/gravel strip be able to handle this kind of wear and tear? Is there an increased risk of fire danger during construction? If so, how will Nevada Wind protect this area? What about the noise of the turbines? Will that noise adversely affect what is now a completely quiet neighborhood? What about the money to build this project? Is it guaranteed? Bonded? What assurances are there that the cash won’t dry up halfway through construction during these times of tight credit? Is there a contract for the electricity already in place with NV Energy? If so, where is it? If not, why not? Will the turbines have any effect on the weather radar station that was operating up in the Pah Rahs until a month ago, when it was mangled by 140 mph winds? Which leads to the question of the turbines’ ability to withstand such storms. At what wind speed must the turbines be shut down to prevent damage? Can these gigantic structures hold up in hurricane-force winds?

All fair questions, and all deserving of complete, thorough answers. So it wasn’t a surprise when the commission voted to put off its vote. As one of the Quaking Aspen residents said that night, this wind farm is the first of what could be many such projects in Nevada. “It needs to be done right.” Who would disagree?