CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The biggest onshore wind development in the works in the U.S. has received two critical federal approvals that could allow the first turbines to go up as soon as next year.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday approved the 500-turbine first phase of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project in Wyoming.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved permits allowing limited numbers of eagle nests to be disturbed and eagles to be killed during construction and initial operation.
The turbines' spinning blades could kill up to 14 golden eagles and two bald eagles a year before project owner Power Company of Wyoming could face penalties. The Denver-based subsidiary of The Anschutz Corp. would offset deaths at the wind farm by retrofitting existing power lines in the region so they can't electrocute eagles.
More approvals remain, including a notice to proceed from the BLM and issuance of the "eagle take" permits by Fish and Wildlife.
Still, company officials said they're optimistic that after a decade of government review, the first turbines could go up as soon as next year. Construction of the first roads on the remote site south of Rawlins began last fall.
Once complete, the wind farm will have as many as 1,000 turbines and generate up to 3,000 megawatts, or enough electricity for nearly 1 million homes. The electricity would go to Southern California over a major power-line project under development by TransWest Express, LLC, another Anschutz subsidiary.
The power would help meet California's goal of getting 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
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