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.