Interior agency to write EIS on incidental take for MidAmerican wind projects

The U.S. Interior Dept.’s Fish and Wildlife Service will in the April 28 Federal Register give notice of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement related to the impacts of MidAmerican Energy Co.‘s wind project development in Iowa.

The agency intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) incidental take permit (ITP) application from MidAmerican Energy Co. (MEC) for the federally endangered Indiana bat, the federally threatened northern long-eared bat, the little brown bat, and the bald eagle. It is also announcing the initiation of a public scoping process to engage Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments; special interest groups; and the public in the identification of issues and concerns, potential impacts, and possible alternatives to the proposed action.

MEC is currently operating 20 and constructing two wind energy facilities in Iowa capable of generating more than 4,040 MW, and expects to construct additional wind energy projects over the next 30 years. MEC is preparing a habitat conservation plan (HCP) in support of its ITP application for both MEC’s existing facilities and facilities presently under construction.

Construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning, reclamation, and repowering of wind energy facilities, as well as activities associated with the management of mitigation land, have the potential to impact certain bat and bird species. Species to be covered in the MEC HCP include the federally listed endangered Indiana bat, the federally listed threatened northern longeared bat, the unlisted little brown bat and the bald eagle, which is protected under the Eagle Act. As allowed under the Eagle Act, the agency anticipates extending Eagle Act take authorization for the bald eagle through an ESA Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit associated with the HCP, provided MEC is in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the permit and Eagle Act.

Public scoping to take input on what should be covered in the EIS will begin with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register and will continue for 30 days after April 28.

Activities to be covered by the proposed HCP include those necessary to construct, operate, maintain and repair, decommission and reclaim, and repower utility-scale, multi-turbine wind energy projects within the State of Iowa. Covered activities also include development and management of mitigation lands and monitoring.

MEC told the Iowa Utilities Board in an April 14 application that its 2,000-MW Wind XI development program is designed to meet renewable energy needs and extended production tax credit (PTC) authorization from Congress. MidAmerican Energy applied for a Determination of Ratemaking Principles for the proposed Wind XI Project, which, like its name implies, is the eleventh installment of a slate of wind projects developed in recent years.

“With this Application, MidAmerican is seeking advance ratemaking principles for 2,000 MW of new wind generation,” said the company. “When added to our current fleet, MidAmerican will have over 6,000 MW of renewable generation, enough to serve approximately 85% of the annual energy needs of our customers when Wind XI is completed.”

William J. Fehrman. MidAmerican’s President and CEO, said in supporting testimony that when the prior Wind X project is completed in 2016, MidAmerican will have 4,048.2 MW of wind generation in operation.

Michael C. Fehr, MidAmerican’s Vice President–Resource Development, noted that development and construction of the Ida Grove and the O’Brien wind projects in 2016 (the 552 MW Wind X Project) are a key part of his current duties.

Information about specific Wind XI project sites is redacted from Fehr’s testimony. MidAmerican has entered into certain real estate purchase options for a number of potential substation sites, professional services agreements with consultants for various diligence services, and agreements associated with entering into the interconnection queue with the Midcontinent ISO

At each Wind XI project, each wind turbine unit will include a wind turbine and a step-up transformer. The actual turbine size is expected to be 2 MW or larger.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.