TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The need for additional renewable energy is increasing across Western states. Many have developed plans to try and bring more clean energy to benefit their local environments.
Idaho is one of the states with that shared goal, hoping to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045. According to renewable energy experts, the Lava Ridge Wind Turbine Project is the next best possible step to help make that goal a reality.
“It’s a really forward-thinking and exciting energy industry to be a part of at this time,” said Luke Papez, the director of Project Development for LS Power, the parent company to Magic Valley Energy.
There are currently 541 wind turbines in Idaho that generate 973 megawatts of power. The Lava Ridge project would bring an additional 400 wind turbines to the state and have the ability to generate 1,000 megawatts of power.
The overall size of the proposed farm would span 20 miles, east to west, and 15 miles, north to south. The potential site for the farm covers 73,000 acres of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, but the final project will not span across the entirety of the 73,000 acres.
Apart from helping Idaho reach its 2045 clean energy goal, there would be significant economic benefits for the state.
“Over $500,000,000 of economic output during just the two-year construction window is huge for the economy in the state of Idaho. It includes 700 jobs during that two-year construction window and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.”
If the turbine farm does get completed, 20 full-time workers would be needed to work on the site. It would also create $15 million of economic output and $4 million in tax revenue annually.
Developers decided on a plot of land that would stretch across Jerome, Minidoka, and Lincoln Counties. Although they looked at other areas, officials decided on that land due to limited biological conflicts, such as invading a species habitat.
“Many of the counties and communities in the area we found, have been responsive to this type of business investment into their communities and their economy," said Papez. "Really a lot of factors went into locating the Lava Ridge Wind Project site.”
The location has drawn some opposition, especially from Japanese American advocacy groups, due to the proposed site's proximity to the Minidoka National Historic Site.
Officials are aware of the negative feedback and are hoping to come to an agreement.
“We’re currently seeking an opportunity to meet with them and understand their concerns," said Papez. "Convey information that we have, and certainly find a way that we can co-exist here. I don't see this as two instances where we cannot come together to meet common goals. And again, make this transition to clean energy, produce a great amount of economic development, and also meet some of their objectives while protecting what they hold dear.”
If completed, the farm will have the ability to power 300,000 homes.
“We have a lot of interest from commercial off-takers, those interested in purchasing power from the facility," said Papez. "So, certainly it is available to stay within the state of Idaho or serve markets outside of Idaho.”
Developers hope to have this project up and running by 2024.