Wind Energy in Oregon and Washington
For over a decade, wind energy has been the fastest growing energy technology worldwide, achieving an annual growth rate of over 30 percent. In the United States, the current total installed capacity is approximately 19,500 MW of wind projects. According to the American Wind Energy Association, 1 megawatt (MW) of wind-generated power can supply electricity to approximately 240 to 300 households per year. Approximately 330 MW of this installed capacity is located on Federal lands in the western U.S. managed by BLM. Nationally, about 20 percent of installed wind energy capacity is on Federal lands. The BLM has released a Wind Energy Development Challenges & Opportunities Map.
Coastal areas and ridge lines within Oregon and Washington are rated as having from good to excellent potential for wind driven power generation. Notable areas with good to excellent potential include the Columbia River corridor and the Oregon coast.
Currently there are approximately 15 applications pending for wind energy testing and monitoring on BLM lands in Oregon and Washington. Additionally, there are 11 rights-of-way authorizations that have been issued for wind energy testing and monitoring on BLM lands in Oregon/Washington. These pending and issued testing and monitoring applications comprise approximately 600,000 acres.
At present, there are no active wind farms on BLM lands in Oregon and Washington.
Wind Energy and the State of Oregon
In January 2009, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the State of Oregon Department of Energy announced the completion of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the environmental review and siting of future wind energy projects in the State of Oregon. The MOU documents the roles, responsibilities, and procedures to follow in conducting a joint environmental review of commercial wind energy generation development projects by the BLM and the Oregon Department of Energy.
- BLM and the State of Oregon Announce Wind Energy Agreement (PDF)
- Wind Energy MOU with the State of Oregon (PDF)
Wind Energy Nationally
The BLM completed a National Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement in June 2005 to address the impacts to future development of wind energy resources on public lands. Oregon and Washington BLM-administered lands were included in this initiative and associated land use plans were amended upon signing of the Record of Decision. Oregon and Washington BLM field Offices are working to tier their wind energy projects to the National Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and associated best management practices.
Wind power uses the naturally occurring energy of the wind for practical purposes like generating electricity, charging batteries, or pumping water. Wind turbines capture the kinetic energy in the wind, converting it into electrical energy. Utility-scale turbines are mounted on tall towers, usually 200 feet or more above the earth's surface where the wind is faster and less turbulent. In utility-scale power applications, anywhere from one or two to several hundred turbines are connected to the utility grid, providing electricity when the wind blows.
Wind energy accounts for 6 percent of renewable electricity generation and 0.1 percent of total electricity supply. However, advances by research labs, universities, utilities, and wind energy developers have cut wind energy's costs by more than 80 percent during the last twenty years. The industry is poised for continued growth. In the U.S., abundant energy potential can be found in the Northeast, the Great Plains, and the West.
Additional information about the BLM's national wind energy programs is available online at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/wind_energy.html.