The pace of wind energy development on public lands is picking up. Interior Ken Salazar announced this week that the Department has reached its goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on public lands with the approval of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site as suitable for wind energy development. The Project is a proposed complex that could generate up to 3,000 megawatts of power in southeastern Wyoming. The project developers expect the proposal to create an estimated 1,000 construction, operation and maintenance jobs and generate enough energy to power nearly 1 million homes.
The decision authorizes the BLM to proceed with site-specific environmental analyses for the Sierra Madre Wind Farm, the Chokecherry Wind Farm, the internal haul road, the internal 230 kilovolt transmission line, the rail distribution facility, and substations to connect the generated power to the electric grid. The Record of Decision also approves amendments to the BLM’s Rawlins Resource Management Plan, identifying the project area as available for wind energy development. The BLM Rawlins Field Office oversees more than 3.5 million acres in Albany, Carbon, Laramie and Sweetwater counties.
Additional environmental reviews will be needed for the specific turbine layout. The BLM will continue to engage stakeholders as these additional reviews are carried out.
The proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project would consist of two sites encompassing up to 1,000 wind turbines on approximately 219,707 acres of land. The project, to be located about 10 miles south of Rawlins in Carbon County, will be developed in phases and operated by Power Company of Wyoming LLC. When constructed, the wind complex is expected to have a footprint of less than 2,000 acres.
At peak construction, project developers believe the project will create an estimated 1,000 full-time jobs; when operational, the facility is expected to employ 114 permanent workers. The complex could generate between $291 and $437 million in annual property taxes to Carbon County over 20 years. The Power Company of Wyoming estimates that this project will contribute $232 million in sales and use taxes to Carbon County; and an estimated $149 million to the State of Wyoming over 20 years for electricity generation tax.
“The Bureau of Land Management is committed to responsibly developing renewable energy on our country’s public lands,” said BLM Acting Director Mike Pool. “That includes an extensive environmental review and making sure that we’re mitigating the potential impacts of energy development on our wildlife and our lands.”
The proposal was evaluated under Interior’s “Priority Projects” approach to processing existing applications for renewable energy development on public lands in a coordinated, focused manner with extensive environmental analysis, public review and landscape-level planning.
Read more on this at BLM.
Map shows Alternative 1A viewscape analysis of the project. Credit BLM.
Article by Roger Greenway, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.