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BLM to review massive wind farm planned near Searchlight

Updated March 15, 2018 - 7:57 pm

Less than a year after plans were dropped for a controversial wind farm near Searchlight, an even larger and more contentious project in the same area is advancing through the permitting process.

The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to conduct an environmental review of a Swedish developer’s proposal to build as many as 220 wind turbines across a 22-mile swath of the Nevada-California border west of Searchlight.

The turbines would be at least 410 feet tall — roughly the same height as the Planet Hollywood Resort — and clustered on more than 32,500 acres of public land directly adjacent to Mojave National Preserve and the 2-year-old Castle Mountains National Monument. In Nevada, the wind farm would surround the Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness on two sides.

The BLM announced plans to complete an environmental impact statement for the southern Clark County project in a notice of intent published Thursday in the Federal Register. The agency will accept public input through June 13 on what should be included in the environmental review.

The wind farm is being developed by Sweden-based energy company Eolus through its subsidiary, Crescent Peak Renewables of La Jolla, California. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The project could create as many as 1,200 construction jobs and 20 permanent operational positions, according to the BLM.

Lucas Ingvoldstad, Eolus North America’s director of business development and government affairs, did not respond to questions about the project Thursday. Ingvoldstad previously worked as a staff member for former U.S. senator and Searchlight native Harry Reid.

More than a dozen conservation groups have already come out against Eolus’ plans.

“The Crescent Peak Wind Project is a terrible idea, one of the worst projects I have seen since I moved to Nevada in 1987,” said Alan O’Neill, former Lake Mead National Recreation Area superintendent and now a conservation advocate in Las Vegas. “I just don’t get it. This is not even good from a wind perspective.”

O’Neill said the project would cut roughly 90 miles of new dirt roads through the desert and “destroy the view shed” of the conservation lands surrounding the site. Such massive turbines also pose a threat to golden eagles and other protected birds in the area, he said.

The same concerns were leveled at the previous proposal to build 87 wind turbines on 9,300 acres of public land closer to Searchlight. Last year, Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy pulled the plug on the project, after opponents convinced a federal judge to toss out the Department of Interior’s approvals for the wind farm.

O’Neill said this new project is “much worse” than the last one.

“We support renewable development, but not everywhere,” he said. “This is absolutely the worst place to put a wind energy project.”

He isn’t the only one who thinks so.

Kevin Emmerich, co-founder of the environmental group Basin and Range Watch, said the proposed site is even more problematic than the Apex project.

“I’m surprised it made it this far, but it looks like its going to go forward,” Emmerich said. “It will literally hug the two national park units in the area. I think it would be a disaster.”

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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