Wind farm floated in state

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has aggressively promoted the development of renewable energy in Nevada, may be able to see some tangible results from his home in Searchlight in a few years.

Duke Energy on Thursday said it proposes to build a wind farm that could cost up to $600 million dollars and generate 300 megawatts a few miles southeast of Searchlight.

Although Reid neither is an investor in the project nor promoted the particular wind site, he is a supporter.

"Senator Reid likes the project," said Jon Summers, a spokesman for the Nevada Democrat. "He thinks it's a good idea. It's going to bring clean energy to Nevada."

Summers said Duke Energy has worked to resolve concerns in Searchlight.

The project would boost the Searchlight economy. It would employ hundreds during six to eight months of construction, Duke Energy Managing Director Robert Charlebois said.

Once completed, it would provide permanent employment for 15 workers, he said.

The project could become a key source of property tax revenue for state and local governments.

Nevada has no operating wind power projects now, but several are under development.

NV Energy Inc., which operates utilities with a similar name, on Thursday announced it is proceeding with development of the 200-megawatt China Mountain wind project in northeastern Nevada and southern Idaho.

Analysts generally consider Nevada's wind energy mediocre compared with wind energy in states like Wyoming and Texas, although the Silver State is rich in solar and geothermal resources.

Yet, Charlebois said wind power developers have noticed the potential for wind power in the Searchlight area.

Duke Energy expects tests to demonstrate that the Searchlight project is commercially viable.

Among Searchlight's strong points for wind energy are proximity to Las Vegas where population growth creates demand for additional energy and access to transmission lines.

"We believe that NV Energy (which serves Las Vegas) would be one of our prime markets for this energy," Charlebois said. NV Energy needs to continue increasing its reliance on green power under state law.

Duke Energy is looking at wind sites in a 25,000-acre area controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, and Charlebois said the company will need only a small portion of that land for the wind farm.

About 100 to 150 wind turbine towers will reach 260 feet high.

Drivers on U.S. Highway 95 probably will see wind turbines, and said some turbines may be visible from Searchlight, Charlebois said.

Researchers must determine how much of a threat the turbines pose to birds, but the area doesn't appear to be along the route of regular bird migration, he said.

Charlebois suspects it will take until March 2011 to go through the regulatory review process.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at or 702-383-0420.