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Published on January 11th, 2012 | by Susan Kraemer


Obama Administration Fast-Tracks 2,500 MW Wind Project in Wyoming

January 11th, 2012 by  


By far the largest wind project ever built in North America is expected to get final approvals by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the next few months.

At 2,000 to 3,000 MW, the ChokeCherry/Sierra Madre Wind Project will dwarf anything built to date on this side of the Atlantic. This is much bigger than the Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas; the largest so far, at 781 MW.

The BLM says that the proposed 1,000 turbine project is sited on two areas approximately nine miles apart within the Wind Site Testing and Monitoring Application Area – the Chokecherry site and the Sierra Madre site – located on 222,689 acres of federal, private, and state lands.

Only a portion of the total land area would be used for, or disturbed by, the project or the access roads, underground electric gathering lines, and overhead transmission line that its developer, Power Company of Wyoming is building as part of the proposed project.

The farm consists of approximately 1,000 wind turbine generators with a nameplate capacity ranging from 1.5 to 3 MW and substations to interconnect the generated power to the electric grid.

At 2,000 to 3,000 MW, the project represents about a third of 7,000 MW worth of renewable energy projects scheduled for approval this year on public lands.

The BLM has already approved a record number of projects during the Obama administration, quadrupling the amount of renewable power permits ever approved on public land.

Prior to this administration, the only renewable energy on public lands was mostly geothermal, and little of that was recent.

But if the 6,600 MW (6.6 GW) that the Obama administration has already approved represented a quadrupling of renewable power (from 1,600 MW in 2008 to 6,600 MW in 2011) this year’s approvals will double that, with another 7,000 MW (7 GW) of renewable energy permits, for a total of 13.6 GW.

The BLM manages over 245 million acres of public lands, and for the last few centuries, has used these lands for oil and gas leases, not solar and wind. Clean energy projects such as this giant Wyoming wind farm are completely new on public lands.

This could be the end of the renewable boom on public lands, because with the now legal control of US elections by the richest industry on the planet as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen United, a return of power to Republican control is likely next.

But no matter what happens after 2012, we will still have 13.6 GW of renewable energy as a result of this administration’s fast track policy over these years. That is enough power for 5% of all US households to get 100% of their electricity from renewable energy on public lands for the next thirty years.

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • “…This could be the end of the renewable boom on public lands, because with the now legal control of US elections by the richest industry on the planet as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen United, a return of power to Republican control is likely next….”

    Say what Susan? You’d have some credibility if you made an effort at being objective. The wind farm noted is to be built in Wyoming, a red state. And another red state (Texas) leads the country in wind power production.

    The biggest obstacle to US offshore wind projects has been Democrats (ever heard of the Kennedys and Cape Wind?). Are we seriously supposed to believe that the liberal California Coastal Commission would ever permit offshore wind projects within federal waters off the California coast, where such projects would do the most good?

    Lastly, your article seems to intentionally distort the facts behind these projects. The ChokeCherry/Sierra Madre Wind Project is being constructed largely on private lands, and not public lands as you claim. And permitting for this project began in 2006, when there was a Republican president from Texas, and a Republican vice-president from Wyoming.

    Please try harder next time.

    • No, it is on land that is a checkerboard of public and private land, so the Interior IS required to permit it. (Even if just the transmission crosses public lands, it must go through the BLM permitting process).

      Bush/Cheney approved no solar or wind on public lands, in 8 years. Not this one, nor any that applied from the late Clinton administration, which ended in 1999.

      Very different record.

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  • Anonymous

    The land use issues surrounding “renewable” energy don’t really make these projects very renewable.

    • The fuel is renewable. We have tons more land (and water) than we’d ever need to produce electricity for the whole world.

    • As Zachary said, the fuel is renewable. But so far as “land use” goes, when used for wind farming, it’s a substantially different term than it is for, say, mountaintop removal coal mining or fracking. The land in and around the turbines can still be used for grazing, for instance. And when/if the turbines are no longer needed, they’re simply removed and recycled, and the land fairly quickly goes back to the way it was. Neither can be said of fossil fuel energy.

  • Thats nameplate capacity. Actual output would be cca 30% of that, varying with local wind intensity.

    • Anonymous

      Output capacities are rising with newer technology and taller towers. 30% is old numbers.

      The nice thing about Wyoming wind (which does not blow 24 hours a day) is that it tends to start blowing in the afternoon as the Sun is dropping off along the coast. This makes Wyoming wind an excellent partner for west coast solar.

      A modest new HVDC line will tie Wyoming wind to the existing Pacific Intertie and ship that power to wherever it’s needed along the West Coast.

      • I did see somewhere the expected output, (should have linked it before I forgot where!), and based my last paragraph about percent of US households that could be covered on that number of gigawatt-hours of production expected

    • The output was pretty good here, strong steady winds, not going too high or low: some of the best wind in the US.

      Relative nameplate capacity in an age of climate change is going to change, to the benefit of wind which does not need water:

      Nuclear has been affected by climate change: heat waves caused 90 degree water in Tennessee river and caused shut down of local nuke plants this summer and last.

      Also, as climate change gets worse, the nameplate capacity of coal and nukes will be affected more, you were always reading of coal and nuke plants having to be be shut down in Australia during its drought decade, because the water can not be spared.

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