Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
Construction on a wind farm similar to the PPM Energy wind farm in Wasco, Ore., above, begins in Beaver County today. First Wind's Milford Wind Corridor will eventually include 159 turbines.

Work is scheduled to begin today on a much-anticipated, $400 million wind-farm project in Beaver County.

First Wind LLC, based in Newton, Mass., formerly known as UPC Wind, is breaking ground on the Milford Wind Corridor, a planned 300 megawatt wind-energy facility that will eventually include 159 turbines rising 262 feet high across 40 square miles of public and private land, according to a company news release. The electricity generated by the facility, located 10 miles northeast of Milford in Beaver and Millard Counties, will be sold to the Southern California Power Authority, said Paul Gaynor, First Wind president and chief executive officer.

The Milford Wind Corridor received approval in October from the Bureau of Land Management, and the first phase of the project will have 97 turbines generating about 200 megawatts of power, serving approximately 50,000 households, he said.

The second phase would move ahead after the company secured commitments for the remaining 100 megawatts of proposed power generation.

"We are now in the process of marketing subsequent phases of the project within Utah and other parts of the West," Gaynor said in an interview.

The Milford site contains sufficient land to build enough turbines to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, he said. First Wind has talked to a number of Utah utilities about purchasing some of the future power capacity, and those discussions are ongoing.

"We envision subsequent phases being in the neighborhood of 200 megawatts each," Gaynor said. "That means about two or three more phases over the next three to five years."

Wind power from the proposed facility would interconnect to the Intermountain Power Plant substation in Delta, said First Wind corporate communications manager John Lamontagne in an e-mail to the Deseret News. "The proposed 300 megawatt wind farm would be the largest renewable energy facility in Utah and would be operational in October 2009," he said.

The Milford Wind Corridor is the first wind-energy facility permitted under the BLM's Wind Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Western states. The agency issued its wind-energy development policy in 2006, in order to evaluate the potential impacts associated with developing wind energy.

"Renewable energy resources are playing an increasingly larger role in meeting our nation's growing energy demands, and BLM is committed to identifying and developing renewable energy zones in Utah," said BLM district manager Todd Christensen in a news release.

Gaynor said the Milford project had received support from local officials, who estimated the facility could generate $1 million a year in taxes and other revenue for Beaver County.

The groundbreaking comes on the heels of news that one of the biggest proponents of wind energy is putting on hold his plan to develop the largest wind facility in America, due to falling energy prices.

Earlier this week, billionaire hedge-fund manager T. Boone Pickens said he is halting his plans to build a 4,000-megawatt wind farm in Texas because natural-gas prices are falling, which would make wind-power generation uneconomical. Natural gas sets the price of power in Texas during most hours, because it's used to fuel most power plants there.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com