Construction crews are currently working on the 27-turbine project, with “substantial completion” on the $125 million project expected by the end of 2015.
The presentation, by sPower Vice President Josh Skogen, was to address concerns about the project. In recent weeks, Summit Wind, a competing wind power company, filed a complaint to the Planning Commission. Summit Wind argues that the Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which was issued by the Planning Commission in 2012, had expired and is no longer valid.
Before turning the time over to Skogen, Planning Commission Chair Marcia Hadenfelt explained, “We need answers to the challenges that have been brought.”
Hadenfelt asked sPower to address two issues, including: 1)- a timeline showing substantial action on the project and 2)- asking how the company handled light, flicker and sound issues with neighboring landowners. The CUP stated that as much as possible, the developers should work with neighboring landowners.
Hadenfelt added that the Planning Commission was advised by San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws to “take this matter under advisement and render a decision later in written form.” It is anticipated that a decision will be released in coming days.
Skogen outlined a number of engineering, procurement, and construction efforts that have occurred since the permit was issued in July, 2012. He stated that the project, which is valued at approximately $125 million, requires extensive time, capital and resources. Later, he also added that extensive lead times are required in the industry.
Skogen said that more than $2 million was spent in the development efforts. The work includes geotechnical work, civil engineering, cultural resource (archaeology) studies, avian (bird) studies, roadwork and procurement of contracts with PacificCorp and other companies.
Commission member Joe Hurst asked a series of pointed questions in an attempt, he said, to “to fill the holes” in the timeline.
Skogen also reported on efforts with neighboring landowners to mitigate light, sound, and flicker issues.
Skogen said that third party professionals helped outline “threshold standards” and designated mitigation efforts if the standards are exceeded. He added that new equipment used in the project is the quietest equipment currently available.
He outlined several surrounding properties which may have issues and said that the company has set aside $4,000 per issue for mitigation efforts. They may include everything from increased insulation and window coverings, to trees planted for visual or wind breaks.
Regarding the landowners in an 80-acre area in the middle of the project, Skogen said that if homes are built on that land, “we will certainly honor this condition of approval.” He added that sPower will “remediate any property value loss based upon proximity to the project.”
He added that a third-party appraiser has helped establish the value of the property. He said that a previous agreement with landowners expired and was never exercised.
Regarding light issues, Skogen said that the project received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and will “employ the minimal amount of lighting for a project of this size.”
The FAA requires lighting for towers that are higher than 200 feet. About half of the towers will have a light, with a flashing bulb at the hub height. The towers are 260 feet high, with a rotor that is 350 feet in diameter. At the high point, the rotor will be 435 feet above the ground.
Skogen said that the electrical substation will be the only place in the project with traditional light bulbs. The bulbs will be pointed down.
Skogen said that one local business, the Canyon Country Discovery Center, could be impacted occasionally by flicker from the windmills. In addition to $4,000 for possible trees and curtains, Skogen said that sPower will provide $250,000 over the next four years to support interpretive and educational efforts about renewable energy at the Discovery Center.
In a related matter, San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams released a statement about allegations that were included in the CUP appeal, including concerns that Adams was benefitting financially from the project.
Regarding his financial interest, Adams said, “I have no financial interest in any of the wind projects. I will not benefit directly from the Latigo Wind Park in any way, shape or form.”
Adams said that his immediate and extended family are also not directly involved, but adds, “I am aware of several distant relatives, with whom I share the same great grandfather, who are involved in the Latigo Wind Park project. I have nothing to gain, directly, from their involvement in any way, shape or form. I have never had any business or financial relationships related to wind development with any of these distant relatives.”