Interior Approves Large-Scale Wind Energy Project on Arizona Public Lands
On June 28, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the approval of a major wind energy project in Arizona that, when built, will provide up to 500 megawatts to the electricity grid—enough energy to power up to 175,000 houses—and create approximately 750 jobs through construction and operations.
The project advances President Obama’s comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution and move the country’s economy toward domestic-made clean energy sources, thus hopefully slowing the effects of climate change.
As part of his comprehensive climate action plan, Obama challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve an additional 10,000 above the original goal of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands by 2020.
The project, proposed by BP Wind Energy North America, Inc., would erect up to 243 wind turbines on federal lands for the Mohave County Wind Farm, which would be located in northwestern Arizona about 40 miles northwest of Kingman.
“These are exactly the kind of responsible steps that we need to take to expand homegrown, clean energy on our public lands and cut carbon pollution that affects public health,” said Secretary Jewell. “This wind energy project shows that reducing our carbon pollution can also generate jobs and cut our reliance on foreign oil.”
With this recent announcement, Interior has approved 46 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands since 2009, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects could provide enough electricity to power more than 4.4 million homes and support over 17,000 construction and operations jobs.
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has identified an additional 14 active renewable energy proposals slated for review this year and next. The Bureau recognized these projects through a process that emphasizes early consultation and collaboration with its sister agencies at Interior—the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service—demonstrating President Obama’s and Interior’s ongoing commitment to “smart from the start” planning.
The decision to approve the Mohave County Wind Farm paves the way for right-of-way grants for use of approximately 35,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land and 2,800 acres of Bureau of Reclamation land.
The company agreed to undertake significant mitigation efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife and other resources, including reducing the project’s footprint by about 20 percent from the original proposal. The smaller footprint will protect golden eagle habitat and reduce visual and noise impacts to the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. In particular, the Interior’s decision bars the installation of turbines within designated sensitive areas to avoid golden eagle nesting locations, as well as provides for a 1.2-mile buffer zone to protect the nests.
Additionally, no turbine will be closer than a quarter-mile to private property. “The project reflects exemplary cooperation between our Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions,” said Bureau of Land Management Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “This decision represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public’s natural resources.”
“I added my signature of approval for this vital project on the same week that President Obama challenged Interior to intensify its development of clean, renewable energy,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor said. “Reclamation's hydropower resources are a centerpiece of the nation's renewable energy strategy. We are pleased to also play a significant role in this important wind energy project.”