US wind power: Illinois: 1 Nevada: 0

The beginning of July saw good and bad news for the US wind industry, with funding approved for one of the first wind plants in Illinois, but plans for the first wind plant in Nevada cancelled.

In Illinois, a $2.75 million grant from the state’s Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund will go toward developing a 50MW wind facility in Mendota, located about 80 miles west of Chicago.

Governor George H. Ryan announced the grant to Navitas Energy on July 11th. The Mendota Hills Wind Farm is expected to add $50 million to the local tax base and provide $130,000 in annual lease payments to area landowners, while generating enough power to meet the annual electricity needs of 15,000 households. The wind turbine installations should begin in 2003.

The Mendota project, however, may not be the first wind plant in Illinois: a 51MW wind plant is planned for construction in nearby Tiskilwa, and is expected to be complete in mid-2003.

In Nevada, efforts to install an 85MW wind power facility at the Nevada Test Site, the former site of nuclear weapons testing, were stopped due to concerns expressed by the US Air Force. Officials at Nellis Air Force Base believe the rotating wind turbine blades could interfere with their radar, impacting Air Force operations on the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range.

Because of those concerns, DOE’s Nevada Operations Office terminated their efforts to gain approval for the wind site.

The Nevada Power Company had already agreed to purchase wind power from the planned wind plant, which the developers had hoped to eventually expand to 260 MW in capacity.

Meanwhile, a proposed 420MW windfarm in Nantucket Sound, off the shores of Massachusetts, is causing environmental groups to draw battle lines. While a coalition of wildlife groups hope to block the construction of even a wind test tower, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) is encouraging its members to send a letter in support of the project to the state’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

Other groups are cautiously supportive. The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) commented on the project and noted that ‘…if New England chose not to tap the wind resource in the offshore area that includes Nantucket Sound, it appears that it would be choosing to exclude most available wind power from its climate change strategy.’

Source: US Department of Energy