County OKs Sunridge windmill |

County OKs Sunridge windmill

by Sheila Gardner

A 90-foot wind turbine proposed for a hilltop next to Sierra Lutheran High School received the go-ahead Thursday from Douglas County commissioners after the planning commission failed to take action.

The board voted 4-1 to approve a special use permit to allow construction of the system which proponents claim will sound like “a whisper in a library” from a distance of 300 meters.

The site is 1,300 feet from the closest subdivision.

“This is the most efficient, quiet, state-of-the-art wind turbine on the market,” said Ken Stokes, vice president of Global Sun Wind and Power Corp.

Stokes responded to neighbors’ concerns that the turbine would lower property values, destroy their views, endanger wildlife and interfere with CareFlight landing at the nearby fire station.

“We’re going to be successful in making this thing disappear (visually),” Stokes said.

That didn’t satisfy property owner Jerry Webster who claimed similar systems “killed millions of birds.”

“People complained of anxiety and nausea from the noise created by them,” he said. “Why subject a neighborhood or school to this? Could it lead to another Columbine or IHOP shooting?”

Brian Underwood, executive director of Sierra Lutheran, said the high school used 12,000 kilowatts each month and the turbine would reduce that by 75 percent.

“From an educational perspective, not only Sierra Lutheran High School, but the northern Nevada community can benefit from math, physics and other science applications,” he said.

Using the turbine reinforces the school’s “green initiative,” Underwood said.

“We’re being good stewards of our natural resources,” he said.

Douglas County planner Dirk Goering pointed out that two towers already exist near the site: a 70-foot telecommunications facility near Hilltop Church, and a 60-foot communications tower near the fire station.

Stokes said that the company would agree to a single turbine on the site.

“This is no wind farm,” he said. “We have designs that have been approved. We’re not going to be on-site tinkering with it.”

Stokes said the company has temporary offices in Minden and hopes to begin manufacturing wind turbines which can cost from $16,000 to $200,000.

Sunridge resident Ann Irving said she had known the inventor for 10 years and had argued vehemently over wind farms, but she said she supported the project.

“I know the difference,” she said. “Because it’s for research and development and education, I’m in favor of it.”

Irving said she had a real estate background.

“I don’t believe it will impact the value of my home by a dollar,” she said.

Commissioner Greg Lynn voted against the special use permit.

“This one is on the borderline,” he said. “We’re always nervous about what did we forget?”

Commissioner Mike Olson endorsed the request.

“We’ve got to quit pushing away technology,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity where we have a proven product that has worked around the world. Our community is full of inventors and intelligent people. I think we need to embrace them and quit pushing them away.”

The special use permit is contingent upon approval of the Bureau of Land Management which owns the property and Stokes’ commitment to one turbine.