Focus on Sustainability: Wind Energy Project

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U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel recently announced the approval of a massive new wind energy project in Arizona. The Mohave County Wind Farm will create up to 500 megawatts of electricity, enough for 175,000 homes. It will also create 750 jobs. The project, proposed by BP Wind Energy North America, will have up to 243 wind turbines on federal lands. It will be located about 40 miles northwest of Kingman. Ray Suazo, the State Director for the Arizona Bureau of Land Management office, will talk about the new project.

Ted Simons: A new wind energy farm is in the works for 35,000 acres of federal land in Mojave County northwest of Kingman. The project is part of President Obama's comprehensive climate action plan. Here with more is ray Suazo, the state director for the Arizona Brewer of land management.

Ray Suazo: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: I want to get to that in a little bit. Describe this project. What exactly are we talking about?

Ray Suazo: We're talking about essentially roughly around 243 turbines that would generate when at full capacity anywhere from 425 to 500 megawatts of power. Essentially the equivalent of producing enough energy to provide energy for about 175,000 homes. So it's a pretty big deal.

Ted Simons: Where are we in the process?

Ray Suazo: So we just recently secretary Jewell signed the record of decision in late June, and so we're in the process of the project is at the point now that they can start to move towards development of the project. We just got through the analysis phase and the decision making process.

Ted Simons: I mentioned northwest of Kingman. How far northwest of Kingman?

Ray Suazo: We're about 40 miles northwest of Kingman. So it's in the area that if you have ever driven up through that area there's a lot of wind and a great opportunity to harness that resource, that renewable resource.

Ted Simons: There used to be a lot of nothing too.

Ray Suazo: In some areas, yes.

Ted Simons: In this particular area, wide open spaces?

Ray Suazo: So some wide open spaces. There are some areas where obviously there's a lot of natural resource that the public has an interest in. Part of our process to analyze those spaces is to think about the use of those particular spaces and how this project would work together with it.

Ted Simons: Let's talk -- I'm sure that's part of the review process. Let's talk about that. I have heard Golden eagle habitat is in that particular area. What's being looked at?

Ray Suazo: One of the nice things about the approach that we have taken and thinking about the footprint of the project and the process that we use to walk through and analyze the impacts is not only thinking about keeping the project viable but thinking about how we protect and make sure that we take mitigation measures towards those specific resources. In the case of this project the analysis led us to a reduced footprint and to making sure that through mitigation that we're paying attention to eagle nesting areas, that we have 1.2 mile buffer to make sure we don't have any turbines near any of those nesting areas, and in particular also the private property. We won't have any turbines that are within a quarter mile of private property. So really trying to balance the viability of the project with the natural setting as well.

Ted Simons: How close to Lake Mead?

Ray Suazo: It's also near Lake Mead. Part of the analysis we reduced the footprint and kept as much as we could, you know, that visual perspective intact. A lot of the mitigation will look at specifics for that. Really keeping in mind the relationship of that area with the project itself.

Ted Simons: So this is now -- who is running this plant? Who is behind this?

Ray Suazo: B.P. Wind Energy is the company who will be issued the right of way, who will eventually construct and develop the project.

Ted Simons: What kind of jobs are we talking about? First to create, then to operate?

Ray Suazo: So the creation, the construction phase could be up to about 175,000 jobs. 175 jobs with roughly about 30 once it's in permanent state running, fully functioning.

Ted Simons: Is that the kind of things where there will have to be housing built to accommodate those folks?

Ray Suazo: I suspect there will be -- the support services that come in when you have this level of construction will certainly be part of the process.

Ted Simons: What about water needs. We're always concerned about projects like this.

Ray Suazo: Certainly obviously water, those are considered part of the impacts of thinking about a project. Keep in mind this is a wind project which is much different than maybe some of the other solar projects that are very water intensive. So the water, the amount of water that would be used would be essentially for anything construction related, not in the way of running the facilities more long term.

Ted Simons: Operationally a massive water supply is not needed.

Ray Suazo: No.

Ted Simons: What about infrastructure, what about transmission lines? It's one thing to have the power, another to get the power from point A to point B.

Ray Suazo: That's a very good question. Once this is up and running, it will be linked up to the transmission grid and the power will be assuming we can get a B.P. wind can get a power purchase agreement, figure out who is going to buy the power and how we get it there. We have several other projects in the state where we're taking a look at transmission and how do you move energy, not just within the state but to the western -- around the western grid and working to do a couple of things. Move those resources around and make them available but then also strengthen and solidify the grid. A few years back when there were a lot of rolling brown-outs and black-outs in the west, when we have an opportunity for projects like this and in particular with transmission to upgrade the grid, it's a good thing.

Ted Simons: So the construction and the upgrade and the whole kit and kaboodle, what time frame are we looking at?

Ray Suazo: Well, once they start moving through the project, I think we're in the neighborhood of a couple years to four years. It depends how fast they can move. Then the real factor that comes into play is power purchase agreement. Who is buying the power and where are we going to move it.

Ted Simons: Before we go I want to get to President Obama's comprehensive climate action plan. What's that?

Ray Suazo: So President Obama recently announced more emphasis on taking a look at climate impacts and if you think about what a wind project like this would play a role in, it definitely play as role when you think of climate impacts in the west which we're just starting to pay attention to, what do they mean and how do they affect the west in general, what do we have? Drought. We have a whole host of things whether it be riparian and other. Having a responsible renewable energy like this project is only an added value towards that climate change approach.

Ted Simons: Alright, thank you so much for joining us.

Ray Suazo: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Ray Suazo:State Director, Arizona Bureau of Land Management;

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