By JAYSON JACOBY
If Randy Joseph ever wondered whether he picked the right place for a wind farm, one gust in particular set his mind at ease.
His hair, not so much.
"When you jump up in the air and you come down two feet back from where you were," said Joseph, the Sumpter Valley man who built the wind farm that accomplished a couple of firsts.
Joseph's Lime Wind project is the first in Baker County, and the first in Oregon to be built on public land managed by the BLM.
The wind farm is on a ridge about five miles north of Huntington, in eastern Baker County near Brownlee Reservoir.
The six turbines, which measure about 198 feet from the ground to the tip of the blade, produce about 3 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 800 homes, Joseph said.
The $7 million project started sending juice into Idaho Power Company's lines on Dec. 9.
Since then the wind farm has generated power at a rate very close to its preliminary projections, Joseph said.
"We were a little behind in January, a little ahead in February," he said.
As for the aforementioned gust, Joseph said he was less worried about where his feet landed than about his car.
"You almost wonder whether it's going to blow over," he said. "We've had some pretty good blows up there."
Contrary though it might seem, when it comes to wind farms there is such a thing as too much wind.
If the turbines spin too fast, the massive force created could damage the devices.
Joseph said his turbines are designed to stop spinning if sustained winds (not individual gusts) exceed 25 meters per second - that's almost 56 mph - for at least 10 minutes.
"That hasn't happened for us yet," he said.
Joseph said the sweet spot, so to speak, for the turbines is in the range of about 28 mph to 45 mph.
Although the turbines are for obvious reasons engineered to a robust standard, Joseph acknowledges that he endured a certain amount of trepidation once the towers were erected and the blades began to spin.
He lives about 75 miles away, for one thing, far out of visual range.
(In fact the turbines, for such large machines, are quite inconspicuous. Drivers on Interstate 84 can see them for only a short stretch of highway, between Farewell Bend and the Huntington exit.)
So it was with considerable relief that Joseph recently installed equipment that allows him to "see" what the turbines are up to via the Internet.
(A security camera, also accessible online, has been in place since the wind farm was built.)
He can also start or stop the turbines remotely.
Lime Wind is truly a family enterprise, Joseph said.
Both his grown sons - Loran lives in Baker City, Wade in Idaho - have helped him throughout the planning and construction process.
And both men assist with maintenance.
Including the task that's not fit for acrophobics.
"I let them climb the towers," Joseph said.
(The ladders, at least, are inside the towers, rather than stapled to the outside, as with power poles.)
Because the Lime Wind farm is on public land, there are none of the fences, locked gates and other security apparatus usually associated with such developments.
"I can't restrict access to the site," Joseph said. "During chukar season there were guys up there hunting all the time. In spring the cows will be grazing."
Joseph said he has not received any complaints about the turbines - something he attributes in part to their somewhat hidden setting, and in part because, as they're lower than 200 feet, they don't have to be festooned with aircraft-warning lights as are the turbines in the Elkhorn Wind Farm, near North Powder.
He hopes people will visit the Lime Wind farm - in particular people who wonder how much noise the turbines make as they spin.
Joseph suspects they will be surprised.
"I encourage them to go, listen, and make up their own minds," he said.
"We look forward to producing energy for a long time at this site."