News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Feds Approve Huge Wind Facility Near Lake Mead

Artist's impression, Mohave County wind Farm | Image: BLM

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has signed off on a wind power facility that would cover almost 60 square miles of public lands in Arizona near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Mohave County Wind Farm, built by BP Wind Energy North America, would include up to 243 wind turbines with blades about 180 feet long.

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The project would occupy 35,329 acres of land under the Bureau of Land Management and 2,781 acres of Bureau of Reclamation land, and would butt up against Lake Mead NRA about 44 miles east of Las Vegas. Depending on the transmission connection eventually chosen, the project would max out at between 425 and 500 megawatts peak generating capacity.

"These are exactly the kind of responsible steps that we need to take to expand homegrown, clean energy on our public lands and cut carbon pollution that affects public health," said Secretary Jewell. "This wind energy project shows that reducing our carbon pollution can also generate jobs and cut our reliance on foreign oil."

The one oil-fired power plant in Arizona that this project might have supplanted, the diesel-fueled Grand Canyon Power House in the South Rim area of the National Park, ceased operations in 1956.

According to the Interior Department, the design of the Mohave County Wind Farm was altered significantly due to the presence of eagle nesting areas on nearby Squaw Peak, to the east of the main road leading to the popular Temple Bar Marina on Lake Mead. As a concession to the eagles the redrawn plan includes a nesting zone buffer area at least 1.2 miles wide, a distance it would take an adult eagle at least one minute and 48 seconds to traverse at a typical unhurried soaring speed of 30 miles per hour or so.

"The project reflects exemplary cooperation between our BLM and Bureau of Reclamation and other Federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions," said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. "This decision represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public's natural resources."

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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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