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School trust land leased for wind project

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 11 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

A chunk of school trust land has been leased as part of the ongoing development of a wind farm in Beaver and Millard counties that will eventually sell power to numerous cities in Southern California.

The Milford Wind Project, at its completion, is expected to power up revenue for the state as well, generating several million dollars for the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration over the course of a 30-year-lease.

SITLA and a subsidiary of First Wind Energy signed the lease earlier this year for 1,560 acres that are expected to be home to 11 wind turbine generators.

That represents just a small portion of the project that will eventually include 159 turbines that will be 262 feet high on 40 square miles of public and private land.

The Milford Wind Corridor proposal received approval in October from the Bureau of Land Management and has the land capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity.

A recent report by a renewable energy task force, commissioned by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., examined zones in Utah that have the capacity for development of energy resources, including geothermal, solar and wind.

Wind data collected from 109 anemometer towers throughout the state found that 24 of Utah's 29 counties have "wind zones" and that the greatest concentration of wind resources is located near Milford, according to the report.

It points out, however, that Utah's unique "geographic" diversity presents challenges to develop wind energy not experienced in neighboring states such as Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

As an example, while Utah's currently installed wind capacity in megawatts is at 20, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that Colorado's stands at 1,068 and Wyoming's is at 459.

Projects such as the Milford Wind Corridor are encouraging to state officials, especially if future phases of the project deliver energy to Utah.

By the time it is completed, the project is anticipated to be the largest renewable energy facility in Utah.

Kevin Carter, SITLA's executive director, said the lease represents an important diversification for the organization, which sinks its revenue from leases back into public schools.

The income-earning potential off leases in that area is largely limited to grazing, and wind power allows SITLA to capture even more money, he added.

"While we are happy to have the grazing, it is not really that lucrative for us. Alternatively, this has real potential to generate revenue for us," he said.

Moreover, the recently signed lease represents just a fraction of trust lands available in that area.

"It is a huge area, and additional sites will involve a lot more trust lands," Carter said.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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