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Farm plans a windy crop

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A land bar near Stockton, Tooele County, has been tabbed by a Lehi company as the site for Utah's first wind-energy farm.

Tasco Engineering has received a conditional-use permit from the Tooele County Commission to generate as much as 25 megawatts of power in an initial phase, meaning about 17 huge turbines could be spinning in less than a year just a few miles south of Tooele.

"It's a good site," said Rick Frandsen, director of business development for Tasco. "When you consider a project like this, the thing you look for first is wind, then a way to get the power out. Stockton offers the wind and an excellent path to get the power out."

Gary Tassainer, president and chief executive officer, will announce details of the company's plans Monday at a wind-power workshop in Salt Lake City. But Frandsen said the site — consisting of two mile-square blocks — and nearby land have enough wind to generate about 100 megawatts, which is enough electricity to power 50,000 typical homes.

"The terrain is such that wind is funneled into that direction," said Lyle Vance, Tasco's chief engineer.

The wind comes from the south 60 percent of the time and reverses itself the remaining 40 percent, Frandsen said. "It's easy to position turbines when the wind is that focused," he said.

Tasco next month will build the first turbine, which will have a 200-foot hub from which will extend blades 100 feet long. That tower will be used to confirm wind measurements that the company has computed based on meteorological data from an existing 30-foot-tall emergency preparedness tower.

At the same time, the company will conduct environmental studies, including a determination about whether the turbines would be in the path of birds' migratory patterns.

Frandsen would not reveal the project cost but noted that the facility would be relatively close to a large power demand center: Salt Lake City. Tasco hopes to work with Utah Power's parent company, PacifiCorp, to get an interconnect agreement in place to move the power to where it is needed.

The next step would be to determine who would buy the power.

"We've committed to this development, and we'll be working on finding buyers. PacifiCorp is there, and a lot of municipalities have their own power departments, so we're confident that with a pilot plant of 17 turbines that we'll be able to sell that power," Frandsen said.

Roby Roberts, manager for renewable energy business development for PacifiCorp, declined to talk about the specifics of the Stockton Bar project or PacifiCorp's potential involvement in it.

Roberts did say that he has spoken to several developers with plans for "strong" wind-energy projects in Utah. Transmission, wind-measurement and economic issues would need to be addressed before the company would act, he said.

The project faces no remaining regulatory barriers, and Frandsen said the use of turbines — with no emissions, no mining and the ability to have animals grazing on project land — should yield little if any public opposition.

Vance noted that a key element will be federal tax credits for wind-power production. That credit program is set to expire at the end of the year, but Tasco expects it to be renewed at the current level of 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour produced.

"I think it's a very positive thing because it's been shown that the prevailing winds through that area are ideal for running these generators," Tooele County Commissioner Gene White said.

"I'm very much in favor of those kinds of things as an alternate source of electricity. From what I see in their plans, everything looks very positive."

Sarah Wright, chairwoman of Utahns for an Energy Efficient Economy and coordinator and manager of PacifiCorp's wind-power campaign, Blue Skies, said the prospect of a large-scale project in Utah is "exciting."

"I'm all for the development of wind power. It helps rural economies, helps prevent global warming and none of the pollution associated with traditional generation," she said.

"It's the energy source of the future. Some people have a problem with the aesthetics of wind power, but if it is sited well, I think they're beautiful."

Frandsen said the project likely will be the first of many in the state. He said Tasco has a few other wind-power plans it is considering.

"The long-term picture is good. We've gotten excited about wind power. This may not be the best place in the world for wind . . . but this is something we decided to pursue," he said. "The nice thing about wind power is that it doesn't run out. If you have a good location, that power will always be there."


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