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Utah's First Wind Farm Clears Big Hurdle

Utah's First Wind Farm Clears Big Hurdle

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah County cleared the way for Utah's first commercial wind farm at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, where winds blow 30-40 mph almost like clockwork every night.

The developer will pay the county $8,500 for an easement for power lines about 2,000 feet long tying the wind farm to a Rocky Mountain Power substation in Mapleton. "I think the tide is turning in Utah and people are starting to recognize we need to generate power from something other than coal," Tracy Livingston, president of Wasatch Wind LLC, said Wednesday, a day after county commissioners approved the easement. "This is a first good step."

Livingston expects his nine-turbine wind farm to start producing up to 19 megawatts in May 2008, enough to power more than 5,000 homes intermittently as the wind blows.

Utah's current wind power capacity is less than 1 megawatt, from two turbines at Camp Williams, a National Guard base 26 miles south of Salt Lake City. Other wind farms are planned for Utah's west desert.

Livingston has a contract to sell the power to Rocky Mountain Power. He still is negotiating property-tax agreements and the right to use a Union Pacific Corp. maintenance road for access. Then he plans to wrap up financing with investors for the $32 million project.

The property tax discount sought by Livingston still would leave the Nebo School District with $5 million over 40 years, he said.

The district collects only a few thousand dollars each year on the land, a gravel pit, he said. "We're going to rebate something we never would have gotten in our lives, and we get to keep a big chunk of it, so it was a no-brainer," Spanish Fork Mayor Joe Thomas told the Daily Herald of Provo. "It was a good deal for the school."

The deal also involves Utah County and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. If everything falls in place, Livingston said he would start construction in October and finish installing the wind turbines by next May.

He said one of his investors, farm-equipment maker Deere & Co., dropped out about a year ago when Utah let a renewable energy tax credit lapse. The credit was recently renewed by lawmakers and Gov. Jon Huntsman. "Without that we would have been dead," Livingston said.


(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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