Record of Decision signed for largest U.S. wind farm
Oct. 9, 2012 –After extensive environmental analysis and stakeholder collaboration, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed the Record of Decision approving the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy site located in Carbon County, Wyoming as suitable for wind energy development.
Located on a roughly 50/50 combination of alternating private land and federal land, the 2,000-3,000 megawatt wind farm was proposed in 2008 by Power Company of Wyoming LLC on portions of a 320,000-acre working cattle ranch privately owned and operated by The Overland Trail Cattle Company LLC.
The Overland Trail Ranch features vast tracts of land with the nation’s highest-ranking wind resources, along with ample acreage to implement advanced conservation measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts to wildlife and other ecological resources.
“This is a unique site ideally suited for larger-scale, lower-impact, least-cost renewable energy development that fully aligns with federal land use goals and federal energy goals,” said Bill Miller, PCW president and CEO. “The Record of Decision milestone moves us closer to having bulk supplies of clean, cost-effective electricity available to serve nearly 1 million U.S. homes – and in a timeframe well ahead of the RPS targets set by California and other Western states.”
The BLM’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the CCSM Wind Energy Project was released in July after more than four years of environmental data-gathering and analysis. The comprehensive document outlines the overall project and potential effects on a wide range of resources, as well as how PCW significantly overhauled its original wind development areas to proactively respond to and address environmental issues.
In collaboration with multiple state and local cooperating agencies, BLM prepared the project-wide EIS to evaluate the overall suitability of wind development in the Overland Trail Ranch area. All subsequent site-specific plans for the project’s construction – such as the micrositing of individual turbines – will be tiered to and comply with the project-wide analysis described in the Record of Decision.
Using advanced technology and an expert team of ecologists and biologists, PCW also has gathered years of science-based pre-construction data on avian habitat and use, both in the specific wind development areas and well beyond.
“We have collected more scientific data in a broader area and to a finer degree than anyone else has ever done,” Miller said. “We know where turbines should and should not go. Our plan to microsite all turbines will assure potential impacts on wildlife are far lower than outlined in the general project-wide EIS, while also materially increasing the country’s clean energy supplies.”
Carbon County has approved a conditional use permit for the project, and PCW also is applying for the necessary permit from the Wyoming Industrial Siting Division. Up to 300-400 construction jobs are anticipated in the first two construction years, with up to 1,200 jobs in subsequent seasons as the wind turbines are installed. Once fully operational, the project will create at least 114 direct operations jobs – making it one of Carbon County’s largest private employers – and will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue.
“Combining renewable energy development with traditional ranching operations puts this land to its highest and best use, while also supporting important new jobs and economic growth,” Miller said. Long-term surface disturbance across the Overland Trail Ranch would be well under 2,000 acres, which is less than 1 percent of the ranch, according to the Final EIS analysis.
The CCSM Wind Energy Project last year was named by BLM to its list of “2012 Renewable Energy Priority Projects.” In August 2012, the White House named the project among seven “nationally and regionally significant” renewable energy projects.
The Final EIS may be reviewed on BLM’s website at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/rfo/Chokecherry.html.
For more information about PCW and the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, visit www.powercompanyofwyoming.com.
The Record of Decision, including the amendment to the Rawlins Resource Management Plan, will be available online at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/rfo/Chokecherry.html.
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