Interior green lights potential 500-MW BP wind project

The Interior Department has approved a BP Wind Energy project expected to produce up to 500 MW on federal land in Mohave County, Ariz.

In a June 28 statement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the project would create about 750 jobs through construction and operations. In recent climate change address, President Obama called upon Interior to approve an additional 10,000 MW of renewable energy on public lands by 2020.

The project could mean an investment of up to $1bn in Arizona, said a BP spokesperson. The mammoth project must still obtain a power off-take contract before it moves into construction.

“BP is pleased that the Department of Interior has moved swiftly to file the Record of Decision,” the BP spokesperson said in an email to GenerationHub.

Interior has already surpassed its earlier goal of authorizing 10,000 MW of renewable energy on public lands by the end of 2012.

The project, proposed by BP Wind Energy North America, would erect up to 243 wind turbines at the Mohave County Wind Farm, which would be located in northwestern Arizona about 40 miles northwest of Kingman.

Output from the project will be rated as either 425 MW or 500 MW, depending on its power line interconnection. The wind project will use turbines from 1.5-MW to 3-MW capacity.

The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates private utilities, has required 15% of energy be from renewable sources by 2025. Likewise, the State of California has a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard to be in place by 2020.

“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,” Jewell said.

Interior has now 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 (BLM) has identified an additional 14 active renewable energy proposals slated for review this year and next. The BLM identified 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.

Today’s decision paves the way for right-of-way grants for use of approximately 35,000 acres of BLM 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% 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, today’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.

BP Wind Energy proposed the wind project in 2009. BLM announced the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project in May.

Also June 28, Deputy Secretary of Interior David Hayes said the department is working with remote communities on small-scale solar, diesel or wind-diesel hybrid projects. The project is meant to work with small Alaska Native villages.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.