Less than a year after backers of a proposed wind turbine farm near Searchlight threw in the towel after failing to convince a federal judge their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was accurate, an even bigger project just 10 miles to the west has started the environmental review process.
A week ago a notice was published in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Land Management initiating a 90-day public comment period for the proposed Crescent Peak Renewables wind farm that would occupy more than 32,000 acres of public land on the California-Nevada border adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve and the Castle Mountain National Monument in California and the Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness in Nevada. All of the wind farm land is in Nevada.
According to a 2012 filing with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, the wind farm would have 220 wind turbine towers standing more than 400 feet high and generating 500 megawatts of power. By comparison, the rejected Searchlight wind farm would have had only 87 turbines on 9,000 acres of federal land, generating 200 megawatts of power.
A federal judge ordered the Searchlight wind farm developers to start all over again on an environmental assessment, noting that the Interior Department’s approval of the project failed to adequately address concerns about impacts on bald eagles, golden eagles, desert tortoises and migrating bats. The judge pointed out the initial data used by the BLM found there were only three golden eagle nests within 10 miles of the proposed turbines. Subsequent surveys actually found 19 probable or confirmed golden eagle nests within five miles of the site, the judge wrote.
Instead, the developers shut down the project.
“Due to the size and potential impacts of the Crescent Peak wind project, the BLM is preparing an EIS,” the Federal Register notice states. “The purpose of the public scoping process is to identify relevant issues that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis, including alternatives, and to guide the process for developing the potential Plan Amendment. The BLM has identified the following preliminary issues: biological resources, visual resources, cultural resources, tribal interests, recreation, and cumulative impacts.”
Wind farms create a number of problems, besides being ugly and noisy and undependable.
A 2009 study by Fish and Wildlife estimated wind turbines kill 440,000 birds annually, including scores of bald and golden eagles. Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in California alone kills about 75 eagles a year.
Studies have found that because intermittent wind power must be backed up by idling fossil fuel power plants, more greenhouse gases are emitted, not less. When the Spring Valley wind farm near Ely first opened, it produced power less than 19 percent of the time.
Also, the increased cost of power kills more jobs than are created.
But the one aspect we find most egregious is the fact the federal public land is practically given away to wind farm developers. No price tag has yet been put on the Crescent Peak project land, but the abandoned Searchlight land was slated to be handed over for a pathetically paltry sum of $118 per acre. And they have the nerve to call those who graze livestock on federal public land welfare ranchers. If the public owns the land it should get a fair market price for it, but without that and the ample subsidies, wind farms don’t pencil out.
Since the project is located on the California border and next to a major transmission line, the power generated there, if ever, is likely to flow into California to slake its legislatively mandated renewable energy portfolio of 50 percent renewables by 2030. All Nevada will get is the bird chopping eyesore.
The deadline for commenting on the proposed Crescent Peak wind farm is June 13.
Comments may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org; via fax to (702) 515-5155, attention Gayle Marrs-Smith; or via mail to BLM, Las Vegas Field Office, Attention: Gayle Marrs-Smith, 4701 North Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89130-2301.
Let your voices be heard.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.