Watch Now: Officials tour proposed wind farm site from above

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Watch Now: Officials tour proposed wind farm site from above

Date: 07/22/2021     Category: News & Media     Author: Hannah Ashton     Publication: MagicValley.com    

https://magicvalley.com/news/local/watch-now-officials-tour-proposed-wind-farm-site-from-above/article_3097889f-2db1-5a46-8527-1e8bb855ac8e.html

Lava Ridge Wind Proposal flight
Ben Otto, an energy associate with the Idaho Conservation League, talks about the plans for the Lava Ridge Wind Proposal on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during an EcoFlight tour of the project area near Shoshone.PAT SUTPHIN TIMES-NEWS

TWIN FALLS — Soaring above the Magic Valley, county commissioners and Idaho Conservation League staff got a bird’s-eye view Wednesday morning of the potential Lava Ridge Wind project site.

The project, a proposed wind farm 25 miles northeast of Twin Falls, is owned by Magic Valley Energy, an affiliate of LS Power. The farm would be on Bureau of Land Management lands.

The BLM is expected to start the formal permit process in early August. The agency is required by the National Environmental Protection Act to release an initial scoping notice and outline any issues that will be addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement later in the process.

If approved, construction could begin in 2022 and the site would be operational in 2023.

Lincoln County Commissioner Joann Rutler participated in the first of three flight tours Wednesday. Rutler said she appreciates LS power trying to educate the public through town hall meetings.

“There is a stigma in Idaho about green power but education is key and listening to people,” Rutler said.

Lava Ridge Wind Proposal flight
An EcoFlight tour flies over some existing wind turbines Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during a Lava Ridge Wind Proposal tour flight near Buhl.PAT SUTPHIN TIMES-NEWS

She has heard concerns from the public regarding the potential impacts on farming, aesthetic value and housing for construction workers. One resident also voiced concerns about vibrations from the farm.

In terms of positives, people are excited about the financial impact, she said. The project is estimated to generate nearly $4 million in annual tax revenue for decades.

Ben Otto an energy associate with Idaho Conservation League, participated in all three tours. Otto said ICL will be closely following the project and propose any necessary mitigation.

So far, LS power has been receptive to concerns from the public, Otto said.

TWIN FALLS — Representatives behind the Lava Ridge Wind Project answered questions from residents at two open house meetings this weekend.

“We will still hold their feet to the fire, but they are doing great so far,” he said.

Lava Ridge would be the largest wind farm in Idaho. Current plans call for 400 wind turbines spread across Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties.

The wind farm would generate 1,000 MW, enough to power 300,000 homes, according to the Idaho Conservation League.

Lava Ridge Wind Proposal flight
An EcoFlight tour flies over the proposed area for the Lava Ridge Wind Project on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, near Buhl. The project will add up to 400 wind turbines.PAT SUTPHIN TIMES-NEWS

Power from the site would be sold to Idaho and other neighboring states, Otto said.

The project would generate more than 700 construction jobs, he said. It would be a mix of local and specialized labor.

Wind turbines have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years. After that time period, Magic Valley Energy could re-power the site or start deconstruction, he said. Part of the permit process requires a plan for decommissioning before the project can be constructed.

Jerome County commissioners Charlie Howell and Rebecca Wood along with Gooding County commissioner Mark Bolduc were scheduled to take a later tour of the site.

Idaho Conservation League partnered with Ecoflight to provide the tour. Ecoglith is a Colorado-based non-profit that aims to educate and advocate for the protection of wildlands and wildlife habitat.