Nevada’s First Wind Farm on Track After Settlement Reached Involving Western Shoshone Tribes
Nevada will get its first wind power project, following the March 29 settlement of a lawsuit, states a press release.
Construction of Spring Valley Wind in Nevada’s White Pine County is currently underway and expected to be completed in July.
A coalition, which included the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Western Watersheds Project (WWP) and local Western Shoshone Tribes, filed a complaint against the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) "fast track" approval of the project on January 25, 2011. They argued the wind farm would negatively impact the ecology of the region–specifically colonies of four species of bats, including an estimated 1 million rare Mexican free-tailed bats living in the Rose Guano Cave just four miles from the project area, states a CBD press release. Some scientists claim the pressure created by the wind turbines can cause the bats’ lungs to explode—a phenomenon known as “barotrauma"—killing them by the thousands. The complaint underscores the bats' vital role in insect control, a potentially costly agricultural necessity.
Furthermore, the complaint states, the project would infringe on the Spring Valley, a pristine mountain valley adjacent to Great Basin National Park. The area also holds historical, cultural and religious significance for the Western Shoshone Tribes, which includes the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Ely Shoshone Tribe. The project is located on or near the site of a tragic Indian massacre, the Goshute War of 1863.
In addition, the site sits near the Swamp Cedar Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which is dotted with Rocky Mountain juniper, known as swamp cedar. The Western Shoshone believe every cedar tree represents an American Indian massacred in the War, and thus attach extraordinary religious and cultural significance to the trees. Shoshone spirits are believed to exist as part of those trees, states the complaint, which can be accessed via a link found on the WWP website.
But on April 17, Pattern Energy Group, the company spearheading the $260 million wind farm, announced Pattern and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had reached a settlement agreement with the coalition on March 29 through the Federal District court in Nevada.
"We believe this positive settlement underscores Pattern's commitment to being one of the leaders in minimizing environmental and cultural impacts from its wind farms," Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern, said in a statement. "We are starting to see that all renewable energy projects, no matter how well-planned, are being questioned. We are pleased to be able to reach agreement with the concerned parties. The settlement should give more confidence to these concerned parties and the community that the project is well designed. We look forward to completing construction of the project and creating history by providing the great state of Nevada with its first homegrown source of clean wind energy."
The wind facility will be developed on federal land by the Houston, Texas-based Spring Valley Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Pattern Energy Group of San Francisco, reported The Las Vegas Sun last year.
In February 2010, NV Energy signed a 20-year agreement to buy electricity from the farm. The 150-megawatt wind farm will connect to an existing 230-kilovolt transmission line to power about 45,000 homes with zero emissions.
Construction of the project is creating approximately 225 jobs and will require 13 full-time positions once operational. Other project benefits include an expected $20 million in tax revenue for White Pine County and the state of Nevada's Renewable Energy Fund over the next 20 years.
Spring Valley Wind will be the fourth wind farm operated by Pattern in North America.