Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SMUD Plants More Turbines At Wind Farm

SMUD Plants More Turbines At Wind Farm
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 10, 2008

FAIRFIELD - Twenty-one new turbines that stand taller than the Statue of Liberty are poised in the Montezuma Hills to provide enough electricity for 21,000 homes.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District erected the turbines to join 31 turbines it already owns in the area near Rio Vista. It plans to add still more turbines by 2011.

How future SMUD wind farm expansions will deal with radar issues recently raised at Travis Air Force Base remains to be seen.

In a series of letters last year, base commander Col. Steven Arquiette expressed concerns about other proposed wind energy projects. The giant turbines cause such problems as planes dropping off the Travis radar, he wrote.

Those letters went to Solano County in regards to turbine projects by private companies. Since SMUD is a government agency, it does not need county approval to install turbines on the 6,265 acres it owns in the Montezuma Hills.

SMUD officials have already met with Travis officials. The radar issue will be included in an environmental impact report on the future turbines, utility spokeswoman Dace Udris said Monday.

The SMUD Board of Directors would approve whether to put more turbines in the Montezuma Hills on utility property and under what conditions.

Radar issues don't necessarily mean the death knell for wind projects. Arquiette this month wrote that 75 more turbines proposed by Escondido-based enXco are unlikely to pose any additional risks to civilian and military aviation.

There are already about 700 turbines in the Montezuma Hills.

But Arquiette also wrote that his comments applied to the enXco project only and that the Air Force will continue to express concerns about cumulative effects of other wind turbine projects.

The base is getting a new radar system that should be operating by year's end. Then it will determine whether turbines cause any problems with the new radar.

Solano County has for more than a decade promoted the Montezuma Hills as a location for non-polluting wind energy. SMUD uses electricity generated from the turbines during the summer, when power demand in the Sacramento area increases and winds typically sweep through the Montezuma Hills.

The utility started its Montezuma Hills wind energy project in 1994, although it has since replaced the original turbines with newer models.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, Ext. 232, or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

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