South Weber Winds wants wind farm

Jan 24 2011 - 11:48pm

SOUTH WEBER -- A wind of change is blowing through South Weber, possibly bringing with it clean energy and a tax profit for the city.

South Weber Winds, a locally owned firm, wants to develop a $30 million wind farm in South Weber at the mouth of Weber Canyon, using a portion of the electricity generated by the turbines to power the cities of South Weber and Uintah. The remaining energy generated would then be sold.

Scott Casas, co-owner of the company with Reuel Alder, is to appear before the South Weber City Council tonight requesting an exclusive license from the city to develop the project at the mouth of Weber Canyon. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at South Weber City Hall, 1600 E. South Weber Drive.

"We're also interested to see if the city would like partial ownership (in the wind farm)," said Casas, who compared it to how Spanish Fork owns land where a nine-turbine wind farm in that city is located.

Mayor Jeff Monroe said Monday he didn't yet have a lot of information about the wind farm proposal, but the mayor stressed he wants to keep an open mind.

One factor that will have to be taken into consideration, Monroe said, is the look of the project and whether residents would approve having it within their view.

"I'm not sure how that is going to look," Monroe said. "My eyes will either be opened, or I will be going, 'Oh, my heck.' "

Most of the discussion to this point has been with City Manager Rodger Worthen, Monroe said.

"We would like to put up about 10 turbines. They are about $3 million apiece," Casas said.

The 300-foot-tall turbine towers, Casas said, would be placed at the mouth of Weber Canyon to capture canyon winds and generate electricity. Each turbine would generate 7 million kilowatts of electricity a year, enough to provide power for 400 homes.

However, the company's proposal is not the first attempt to capitalize on the South Weber winds.

Years ago, Weber Basin Job Corps built a smaller turbine on its property near the mouth of the canyon to generate electricity for a dorm house at the center. But that turbine has not been operational for more than a decade because of the cost to repair a part.

The technology has improved since Weber Basin Job Corps built its turbine, said Casas, who is aware of that project.

Also, the proposal to the city to build a $30 million wind farm in South Weber is not the first step South Weber Winds has taken to move its project forward.

For 18 months the company, Casas said, has had an anemometer at the mouth of Weber Canyon measuring winds from a 90-foot tall tower the company has had on loan from the Utah Geological Survey.

"We all know it is windy in South Weber. We just didn't know if it was (windy) enough to do a wind farm," Casas said. Based on data collected, there is enough canyon wind to develop a wind farm in that area, he said.

South Weber in addition to getting clean energy and the option to partner in the project, will also make a gain in property taxes for each piece of property on which a turbine is placed, Casas said.

Because the proposal is in its early stages, he said, they have yet to conduct an environmental assessment on the project or approach Rocky Mountain Power with a proposal to buy back any of the generated power. "But before we go any further we have to have city approval," he said.

Upon receiving city approval, Casas said, the company will apply for federal grant money that could be used to help finance the project.

"It's a couple of years out," he said. "We would hope to have a wind farm in place within two or three years."

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