Southeast Idaho Officials
by Associated Press
Environmental groups challenge series of projects
BLACKFOOT, Idaho - Bingham County commissioners have approved a second wind farm in southeastern Idaho.
Commissioners voted Tuesday, Aug. 5, to approve a permit for a 66-turbine wind farm proposed Western Energy for the Cedar Creek area east of Firth.
Western Energy co-owner Steve Nielson, co-owner of the Firth-based company, told the Post Register he hopes to break ground on the project next spring.
The approval comes one day after commissioners approved a plan by Ridgeline Energy LLC to build a 150-turbine wind farm on 20,000 acres along Wolverine Canyon, a popular recreation area south of Idaho Falls.
"Wind as renewable energy has the potential to create some additional energy available for use when we're short of energy," said Commissioner Wayne Brower on Wednesday. "We recognize that the energy may not stay in the area, but will be produced and go on the grid and will get sold to where the needs are."
The commissioners set special conditions for both wind farm projects, including a requirement that the 490-foot tall turbines be at least one mile from any inhabited structure.
The projects must also get approval from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
The Ridgeline Energy project would produce enough energy to light about 300,000 homes. The Western Energy project would power about 40,000 homes.
Western Energy's turbines will be built on 5,000 acres owned by the family of Ted Thompson, who said increasing operating costs have been plaguing the ranch and the wind farm will help pay the bills.
"It's a way for us to stay in business, basically," he said.
Opponents of the project have one month to file an appeal. Thompson said he expects one to be filed by people who question whether the region is suitable for wind farms, and who say the projects will mar the scenic landscape.
As for other possible wind farm projects in the county, Brower said he's not aware of any but "I've heard rumors that there are."
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