- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved the first 500 turbines to be constructed at the Chokecherry Sierra Madre (CCSM) Wind Energy Project in Wyoming. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also indicated it would issue required permits, the Associated Press reports.
- The massive project eventually calls for up to 1,000 wind turbines on almost 220,000 acres, targeting 3,000 MW of carbon-free resources.
- Power Company of Wyoming has been developing the project for a decade, and if completed, it would be the largest wind farm in North America.
The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project received key approvals for the initial phase of construction this week, with an ultimate aim of helping California meet renewables targets by 2030. BLM and FWS said the first 500 turbines would create negligible environmental impacts, and would be a net-positive for an eagle species in the area which had threatened the proposal.
"We can develop our nation’s wind resources in a way that conserves our extraordinary wildlife resources,” FWS Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh said in a statement. Once final mitigation measures are approved, the service will issue an Eagle Take Permit for PCW.
BLM explained in its statement that under federal regulations, compensatory mitigation is not required for bald eagles. "However, any golden eagle taken must be compensated for to ensure golden eagle populations remain stable," the agency said.
The project is located about half on privately-owned land and half on land administered by the federal government. According to PCW, the 1,500 MW of renewable energy generated from the project's initial phase "will reduce America’s carbon emissions by millions of tons per year."
The project is estimated to bring up to 1,200 jobs to Wyoming at peak construction, and more than 100 permanent positions to run the wind farm. The first phase of the project is estimated to generate almost $200 million in property-tax revenue during construction.
Timing of the project had been in doubt as Wyoming considered raising its tax on wind production, but the state nixed that proposal in the fall. However, lawmakers have introduced a measure that seeks to limit instate wind energy usage as a way to ensure more traditional generation resources like coal remain afloat in the power mix. The Cowboy State is heavily dependent on the coal industry for revenue, producing roughly 40% of the U.S.' coal. As natural gas prices and the falling cost of renewables squeeze coal, Wyoming lawmakers are scrambling for ways to keep the industry financially stable.