Bureau of Land Management
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 15, 2006
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Bureau of Land Management Announces Final Approval of Wind Energy Project in Idaho
Kathleen Clarke, Director of the Bureau of Land Management, today announced completion of an environmental review of the largest wind energy project on Federal land in the last 25 years. Approval of the Record of Decision (ROD) and right-of-way grant for the Cotterel Wind Power Project on 4,500 acres of BLM-managed public land clears the way for the installation of up to 98 turbines on a ridge in south-central Idaho five miles east of Albion in Cassia County.
The 200 megawatt (MW) project will generate enough electricity to supply approximately 50,000 homes. Promoting wind energy is a high priority for the Bureau in its efforts to enhance energy security by expanding opportunities for developing alternative, domestic sources.
“This project represents the kind of diversification of America’s energy supply that is a key component of President Bush’s energy policy,” Clarke said. “We are committed to encouraging wind energy production on public lands, while at the same time minimizing environmental impacts.”
The Cotterel right-of-way grant includes important measures for mitigating the effects of wind generation on wildlife resources. Best Management Practices (BMPs), offsite mitigation, and adaptive management strategies will be incorporated into the project to address impacts to sage-grouse, raptors, bats, and migratory birds. An interagency team of Federal and state biologists developed the mitigation plan and will continue to monitor wildlife impacts. Power generated from the project will be distributed through the existing regional power grid.
The Cotterel project will also help meet the goal Congress set in Section 211 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which calls on the Secretary of the Interior to seek (by 2015) to approve projects on Federal lands generating at least 10,000 MW of electricity from non-hydropower renewable sources.
The project is expected to bring economic benefits to the local area. Construction activity is projected to generate up to $12.5 million in local sales tax revenue and more than half a million dollars annually once operations are fully underway. Cassia County will also benefit from property taxes on the project’s $197 million in property improvements.
Wind energy is the world’s fastest-growing energy source. Technological advances in the design and siting of turbines have increased their generating capacity while continuing to reduce their impact on the environment. Because there are no emissions involved, wind energy’s environmental impact per unit of electricity generated is significantly lower than that of more common forms of electricity generation.
In addition, wind energy is not subject to the same price fluctuations as natural gas and oil. Electricity production from wind energy in the U.S. is expected to increase six-fold by 2020. By the end of 2006, the production of electric power using wind is projected to conserve more than 500 million cubic feet of natural gas per day nationwide, relieving demand pressures on that supply of energy.
BLM-managed lands in nine Western States have the potential to generate an estimated 3,200 MW of wind energy – enough to provide electric power for nearly one million homes. Public lands administered by the Interior Department produce approximately five percent of the wind energy, one-half of the geothermal energy, and 17 percent of the hydropower generated in the United States.