The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced the approval of four new renewable energy projects on public lands, the launch of environmental reviews on three others and the next steps in a comprehensive environmental analysis to identify solar energy zones on public lands in six western U.S. states.
‘The focus we have placed on smart planning and coordinated reviews of permit applications is paying dividends with new large-scale renewable energy projects that are springing to life, powering communities and creating jobs across the West,’ says Ken Salazar, secretary of the DOI.
The renewable energy projects – two utility-scale solar developments in California, a wind energy project in Oregon and a transmission line in Southern California – together are expected to create more than 1,300 construction jobs, provide a combined 550 MW of electricity and generate several million dollars annually in local government tax revenues.
The projects are part of the DOI's Smart from the Start approach to processing existing applications for renewable energy development on public lands in a coordinated, focused manner with full environmental analysis and public review.
The West Butte wind project will consist of up to 52 2 MW to 3 MW wind turbines on private land in Deschutes and Crook counties, Ore. The project will produce up to 104 MW of electricity for homes and businesses and includes an access road and transmission line that would cross about 4.5 miles of BLM lands.
BLM is requiring the developer, West Butte Wind Power LLC, to mitigate 9,000 acres of sage grouse habitat by providing funding for the restoration and enhancement of a similar amount and type of habitat on BLM lands. The company will also provide funds through Crook County to purchase conservation easements for sage grouse management and has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop an Avian and Bat Protection Plan and prepared a Wildlife Mitigation and Monitoring Plan for Crook County.
In addition, the BLM has issued notices of intent to begin environmental analyses of two wind projects and a solar energy project located in California with a combined generating capacity of more than 370 MW.