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Wind energy in the California desert. Photo by Tom Brewster Photography

Wind Energy

Wind turbines capture or harvest the kinetic energy in the wind, converting it into electricity.  Utility-scale turbines are mounted on tall towers, some 300 feet or taller.  At those heights, the wind is faster and less turbulent.  In utility-scale power applications, any number of turbines are connected to the utility grid, generating electricity when the wind turns the blades.

The BLM manages more than 20 million acres of public lands with wind energy potential in 11 Western states.  State renewable energy portfolios; investment tax credits for solar energy projects; volatile oil prices; and international concern about climate change have all contributed toward public and industry interest in utility-scale solar energy development.

Since completing a comprehensive wind-energy focused programmatic environmental review of wind energy on public lands, the BLM has amended 52 regional land-use plans called Resource Management Plans (RMPs) and crafted policy guidance on best management practices (BMPs); measures to mitigate potential impacts on birds, wildlife habitat, and other resource values; and administration of wind energy authorizations. 

Wind energy has seen dramatic increases in use worldwide and in the United States over the past two decades.  Currently, about 74,000 MWs of wind energy are in production in the United States alone.  Laws enacted in most of the Western states require energy companies to supply a portion of their energy from renewable energy sources.  As a result, the BLM anticipates a continued interest in the use of public lands for wind energy development.

Learn more about wind permitting and development on BLM-managed public lands.

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