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July 30, 2014

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Proposed wind farm near Searchlight worries some residents

Farm with 160 turbines would be Southern Nevada’s first

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Cassie Tomlin

William Berg, “Shorty” Schwartz and Bonnie Schocker, of Searchlight, look at a map of a proposed wind farm Tuesday at public meeting hosted by the Bureau of Land Management at Searchlight Community Center.

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A tentative map outlines where Searchlight Wind Energy might build 160 wind turbines and new roads, east of Searchlight.

A wind farm that would be Southern Nevada's first could sprout 30 miles south of Boulder City near Searchlight as soon as 2011.

Some Searchlight residents, though thankful planners have already moved turbines because of their concerns, worry that the wind-powered energy plant would be ugly, noisy and deadly to wildlife.

Yesterday, about 60 Searchlight and Cal-Nev-Ari residents met with planners for Searchlight Wind Energy LLC at the first of three Bureau of Land Management public meetings. A meeting in Laughlin is scheduled for today, and a meeting in Boulder City on Thursday.

Duke Energy, a Charlotte, N.C., company, wants to build about 160 wind turbines east of Searchlight, across about 24,000 acres of publicly owned land.

The Bureau of Land Management needs to collect, address and assess comments and concerns before it can allow the development. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 17.

The bureau expects to have a final environmental impact statement and decision by April 2011.

The plant could generate 370 megawatts of power from the turbines, which would stand 415 feet tall with blades extended upward, Robert Charlebois, managing director of Duke Energy, told the crowd at Searchlight Community Center in his fourth visit to the town.

Searchlight was the windiest of 20 places across the state and perfect for the project, he said.

Charlebois told residents that, before construction begins, the company would study the roads and determine which ones were suitable for travel by large trucks. Duke Energy would replace any road damaged during construction, he said.

Resident Sabra Shawn asked about bird mortality because of the turbine's blades, and Charlebois said some of the country's best biologists are studying the area to see if the wind project would endanger the area's blackhawks and bats.

Before the meeting, some locals said they'd been keeping track of the project since last April.

Robert Shawn, a member of Searchlight's Town Advisory Board, said the initial map had turbines closer to town, bordering some yards. When people complained, planners moved them in the design.

"We didn't like the idea of having these things right in our backyard," he said.

Shawn said he was still worried the wind farm could deflect public safety radio systems and confuse military radar.

Taylor Emanuel, volunteer director of Searchlight's airport who lives in Henderson, said Duke Energy had moved turbines away from the airport after working with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA regulations say any structures taller than 200 feet should be at least 3 1/2 miles from runways, he said. Duke Energy placed the turbines about 1 1/2 miles from the airport's runway. Emanuel said he didn't know if the FAA would suggest moving them even farther.

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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