The 7,500-acre Spring Valley Wind farm in White Pine County, just west of Great Basin National Park, is set to start providing power to northern Nevada this July, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported ((http://bit.ly/HWvHAg ).
San Francisco-based Pattern Energy plans to install 66 turbines to generate 150 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 45,000 homes.
NV Energy has agreed to buy power from the wind farm for the next 20 years.
The Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity sued last year in an effort to block the $225 million project, claiming the U.S. Bureau of Land Management skirted environmental regulations to fast-track it.
The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife also expressed concerns over the project.
The conservation groups and company entered settlement talks last year after a federal judge refused to stop work at the site to allow more study of how the turbines would affect bats and sage grouse.
Under the settlement approved March 29 in U.S. District Court in Nevada, Pattern agreed to expand its program for tracking bird deaths associated with the project.
The company also will pay for a $50,000 study of nearby Rose Cave, where as many as 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost during their fall migration.
Rob Mrowka of the Center for Biological Diversity said conservationists were forced to settle and try to get as much mitigation as possible once the judge denied a motion to halt construction.
He said the site is riddled with problems, including its proximity to Rose Cave and to nesting and brood-raising areas for sage grouse.
The wind farm also abuts a sacred Western Shoshone swamp cedar site where Indians were massacred during the Goshute War of 1863.
"It's just a bad spot," Mrowka said.
Pattern officials defend the site, which has been the subject of wind and weather monitoring since 2005.
"We are starting to see that all renewable energy projects, no matter how well planned, are being questioned," Pattern CEO Mike Garland said in a statement. "The settlement should give more confidence to those concerned parties and the community that the project is well designed."
In 2010, planners said they expected fewer than 203 birds and 193 bats to die from turbine encounters each year.
Each 262-foot tower — roughly the height of a 30-story building — will hold a rotor with three blades the length of a football field.
Biologists say Mexican free-tailed bats roost in Rose Cave, about five miles from the wind farm, for one to three days while on their southern migration to Central America from July through October. At peak times as many as 2,000 bats per minute have been counted leaving the cave.
At first, the wind farm will serve only NV Energy customers in northern Nevada. The power eventually will find its way south to the Las Vegas area with the completion of a transmission line now under construction.
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune