Wind farm fans green hopes

Energy » Project could expand to five or six more phases.
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The newest project in Utah's renewable energy portfolio, a wind farm whose huge sweeping blades spin silently like a forest of giant pinwheels, was dedicated Tuesday.

The first phase of the Milford Wind Corridor Project in Beaver County is transforming the constant breezes that pass over this hardscrabble landscape into electricity for a growing population in Southern California. The project began generating power about a month ago.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell was among those at Tuesday's event. He described the project as part of a "brave new world" where the country will be free of the whims of foreign oil producers while improving the economy of Utah and the rural county of about 6,500 people.

"It is revolutionary in maintaining our quality and standard of living," Bell said to an audience of more than 100.

Paul Gaynor, the CEO of First Wind, the Boston-based company that built the $400-million project, said this is the largest of its six wind farms and the biggest in Utah. He said the project could eventually grow to five or six more phases.

Gaynor said perseverance and cooperative investors and banks helped make the project possible on time and on budget, despite the recession.

"Financing came from an inability to say no," he said of the company's finance team. "We needed a lot of money -- nearly a half-billion dollars -- during the worst crisis of a lifetime. We started in the eye of a storm."

He said $84.5 million was invested in Utah businesses, labor and support services for the project.

The power is being purchased by the Southern California Public Power Authority, an agency comprising 12 municipal utilities and an irrigation company. Phyllis Currie, general manager of Pasadena Water and Power, said the power will help the city meet its goal of obtaining 44 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, which is 10 percent more than will be required by state government by that date.

"I want to tell our customers when they turn their lights on they have [Utahns] to thank," said Currie.

Andrew Swapp, a teacher at Milford High School whose students have gathered wind speed information since 2001 from anemometers shared with First Wind, also applauded the project.

"It's not just about math and science," said Swapp. "It is just a good feeling to stand under one of these behemoths producing clean, renewable energy."

First phase of the Milford wind project

The Milford Wind Corridor Project will supply power to communities in Southern California.

Size » 97 turbine towers standing 262 feet tall over 40 square miles.

Capacity » 203.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 44,000 homes.

Delivery» 88 miles of transmission lines to Intermountain Power Project substation in Delta, then to Southern California.

Jobs » 225 for construction, 15 for operation and maintenance.

Cost » More than $400 million.

More info »

Source » First Wind