News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Feds Reach 10-Gigawatt Public Land Renewables Goal

Public lands solar | Photo: Petor Smit/Flickr/Creative Commons License

With today's approval of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a 3,000-megawatt wind power project in Wyoming, the Department of the Interior has reached a goal set by the Obama administration to approve 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy development on public lands. The benchmark was announced today in an Interior Department press release.

Eight of those public lands renewable energy projects have been approved in California -- six solar and two wind -- accounting for 3,347.5 megawatts of the total.

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An additional six solar projects in California sited on privately owned lands were approved by the BLM due to the need for transmission across public lands: those projects total 4,112 megawatts of capacity.

Only a small percentage of the approved projects are currently producing power. Many of the projects in California are slated to come online in 2013.

"The Bureau of Land Management is committed to responsibly developing renewable energy on our country's public lands," BLM Acting Director Mike Pool said in the Interior press release. "That includes an extensive environmental review and making sure that we're mitigating the potential impacts of energy development on our wildlife and our lands."

Since the first months of the Obama administration in 2009 the Interior Department has approved 18 public-lands solar facilities, 8 geothermal plants, and 7 wind turbine installations.

The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, Wyoming would encompass 219,707 acres south of Rawlins. That's an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City, or -- for a more California-centric comparison -- almost three quarters the area of Los Angeles. It will include up to 1,000 wind turbines.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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