Joseph hopes to build wind farm

Written by Baker City Herald October 21, 2008 02:11 pm

A Baker County man plans to build a 12-turbine wind farm near Huntington that would produce enough electricity to power about 800 homes.

Randy Joseph hopes to install the turbines on public land about two miles north of Huntington and one mile east of the old lime plant.

Joseph, who is chairman of the Baker County Planning Commission and Baker County Renewable Energy Committee, estimates the project will cost $5 million.

His goal is to start generating electricity from the turbines by the end of 2009.

The BLM, which manages the property, today started a 30-day period during which the public can comment. Copies of the BLM’s environmental study of that proposal are available for review at BLM’s Baker City office, 3285 11th St., or by calling 523-1256.

More information is available online at www.blm.gov/or/districts/ vale.

Joseph, who lives in Sumpter Valley, said the turbines he wants to install are considerably shorter — at 145 feet tall — than the ones built last year near North Powder.

Joseph said his proposed turbines are short enough that they would not need to be equipped with aircraft-warning lights, as the towers near North Powder are based on Federal Aviation Administration rules.

Also, he can have the turbines painted in a color other than white.

“We haven’t made a decision but we’re looking at a slate-gray shade that blends in more with the background,” Joseph said.

Joseph, who has spearheaded the county’s effort to build a hydroelectric plant at Mason Dam, said he also has been eager to see Baker County’s first wind farm constructed.

The Elkhorn Valley project near North Powder is in Union County.

“I got myself to the point where I didn’t see anybody else going forward, so I decided to pursue this myself,” Joseph said.

He said he initially set up an anemometer on a ranch he owns near Sutton Creek, several miles southeast of Baker City.

That’s a blustery place, he said, but the wind doesn’t blow consistently enough there to justify installing turbines.

Joseph then learned that the BLM was looking for people interested in building wind farms on public land.

The place he picked is along a ridgetop between Brownlee Reservoir and the Burnt River, at an elevation of about 3,900 feet.

Although the site totals 60 acres, Joseph said the “footprint” of the turbines would occupy just 3.2 acres.

The rest of the land would remain available for livestock grazing, he said.

Joseph said he expects to pay for the project with a combination of his own money, a bank loan, federal grants and tax credits, and a long-term, low-interest loan through the Oregon Department of Energy.

He said he’s also interested in talking with local investors.

Although he does not have a contract for the electricity, Joseph said he expects to sell it to Idaho Power Company.