Shell Drops Plan for Humboldt County Wind Facility

Map of the mothballed Bear River Wind Project | Courtesy Humboldt County Planning and Building Department

Shell Wind Energy has withdrawn plans for a 50-megawatt wind turbine facility near Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the Eureka Times-Standard reports.

The Bear River Wind Project, which would have included 25 large wind turbines each rated at two megawatts capacity, would have occupied a ridge above the Bear River south of the Humboldt County community of Ferndale.

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The project, which has been on the drawing board for eight years, prompted significant opposition from some locals. But Shell Wind Energy says its rationale for dropping the project had more to do with cost and logistics than politics. The project would have involved building five miles of new road into the rugged terrain near Cape Mendocino.

In a letter to the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department, Shell said;

We would like to inform you that Shell WindEnergy Inc. has decided to exit the Bear River Wind Project due to unfavorable market conditions and issues pertaining to the transportation logistics. This means that we will stop all development activities related to the project including -- community consultation, project and transmission design, EIR/EIS permitting, transportation and environmental studies.

According to the Times Standard, a Shell representative explained in a subsequent email that complex logistics in bringing supplies to the site made the project economically infeasible, especially given recent lower prices for renewable electricity. Modern wind turbines have blades the length of a railroad flatbed car, and moving 75 of them up twisty mountain roads to the project site would certainly have been a daunting task. Shell has already spent $5 million on the project.

[Note: A previous version of this story included an inadvertent typo in the figure Shell spent. That figure has been corrected. I regret the error. -- CC]

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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