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Utah wind farm inching toward completion

By Michael R. McFall

Deseret News

Published: Monday, May 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Glen Pckosh for WindConnect sands out flaws on a 150-foot-long wind blade that is waiting to be installed at Milford Wind Corridor last week.

George Frey, Bloomberg News

Utah's largest renewable energy facility is inching toward completion, fulfilling the president's dream, but not with his money.

Construction workers on the Milford Wind Corridor, a planned 300-megawatt wind-energy farm in Beaver County, have finished 20 of the foundations needed for the farm's 97 wind turbines. They've also completed most of the transmission line between the farm and the Intermountain Power Plant in Delta and expect the first turbine tower to go up by the end of the month, all building up to the ribbon-cutting in December.

Although it was originally predicted to be completed in October, John Lamontagne, corporate communications manager for project owner First Wind LLC, said the company "want(s) to be safe" and not disappoint the public with a deadline that may not be met.

"But hopefully, we can finish before the end of the year," he said.

The farm's first customer is Southern California Public Power Authority. The Milford Wind Corridor electricity is contracted to power roughly 50,000 homes in Burbank, Pasadena and Los Angeles.

Half of SCPPA's electricity already comes from out of state, said Dave Walden, SCPPA's energy systems manager.

The residents of those areas appreciate all the help they can get. In 2000, unregulated California power companies filed for bankruptcy, causing a widespread energy shortage. Then-Gov. Gray Davis declared a state of emergency as rolling blackouts sporadically left millions in the dark up to 2002.

In addition, the project will raise property tax revenues and royalty payments to landowners within both Millard and Beaver counties, as well as create green-energy jobs — a fulfillment of President Barack Obama's mission to put unemployed Americans back to work in environmental jobs.

But none of the project's cost is being covered by the Obama administration's stimulus package. Although billions are set aside for green-energy projects, the Milford Wind Corridor sees none of it.

Instead, The Royal Bank of Scotland is financing most of the project. Its $376 million loan, issued last month, should cover most of the project's bill, estimated to be at least $400 million, Lamontagne said.

"This project was planned long before there was a stimulus package," he said.

Obama said last month that wind power could provide as much as 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, 10 times the current 2 percent.

With other states investing in their own wind power projects, the increased demand for the necessary supplies could drive up prices. Lamontagne declined to comment whether an increase in wind-power projects would have any affect on the corridor's construction costs.

The farm's physical realization is only the first phase. The next four will focus on increasing the output to 1,000 megawatts during the next few years.

Contributing: Associated Press

E-MAIL: mmcfall@desnews.com

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