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Grants Boost Wind Farm Prospects

by Dave Wilkins, Idaho Staff Writer
Capital Press, September 28, 2004

Nearly $1 million in federal grants will help get a pair of wind farms off the ground in Idaho.

Stan Schwendiman will receive $400,000 for a wind energy project east of Idaho Falls, while West Slope Wind One LLC will receive $500,000 for a project near Burley.

The two Idaho projects were among 167 recipients of renewable energy grants recently announced by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Recipients in 26 states will share $22.8 million in USDA Rural Development grant funding. The money will be used by rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers to develop renewable energy systems.

“Idaho has great potential for wind generation, and we are excited that there are two more projects going in rural Idaho communities,” said Mike Field, Idaho State Director of the Rural Development office.

Leroy Jarolimek, president of West Slope Wind One, wants to erect two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines west of Burley. The $500,000 in federal grant money should allow the company to put up at least one this year.

“We’re going to go ahead and try to put in one turbine for sure,” Jarolimek said.

The company still needs some additional funding from private investors to get the ball rolling. A 1.5-megawatt wind turbine installed on an 80-meter tower costs nearly $2.5 million.

The utility studies have all been completed, Jarolimek said. It’s just a matter of getting the funding together, installing the turbines and connecting to the power grid.

“We have a chance if we could put everything together to get one of these towers up before the end of the year,” he said.

Ordering more than one turbine at a time lowers the per-unit cost, which is one reason that Jarolimek wants to put up two of them.

It will cost at least $200,000 to bring in the crane needed to put up a single tower. Erection of a second tower would cost only about $30,000 more, Jarolimek said.

“We’re trying to scrape up enough money to put in two,” he said.

Jarolimek is convinced that renewable wind energy could help Idaho farmers cut their energy bills and stay in farming.

But it will take some favorable long-term contracts with Idaho Power, federal grants, tax credits and some willing investors to make everything work, Jarolimek said.

Idaho is ranked 13th in the nation for wind potential, but still doesn’t have a large wind energy project, he said.

Earlier this year, Jarolimek installed a small, 20 kilowatt wind turbine that has generated enough electricity for his farmhouse and shop.

The turbine, which was connected to the Idaho Power Co. grid, was the first net-metering wind generation project in Idaho funded by the 2002 farm bill.

Last year, the renewable energy grant program awarded $21.7 million to recipients in 24 states to develop or improve wind power, anaerobic digesters, solar, ethanol and other bioenergy related systems.

Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Grants Boost Wind Farm Prospects
Capital Press, September 28, 2004

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