Approval Handed Down for Largest Federal Land Wind Project

Kathleen Clarke, Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 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. According to the BLM, promoting wind energy is a high priority in its efforts to enhance energy security by expanding opportunities for developing alternative, domestic sources. “We are committed to encouraging wind energy production on public lands, while at the same time minimizing environmental impacts,” Clarke said. 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. 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.
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