The Interior Department approved plans on Tuesday for a wind farm east of San Diego on more than 12,000 acres of public lands centered in the McCain Valley.
The Tule Wind Project, developed by Iberdrola Renewables, the U.S. division of the Spanish energy company, will be able to power about 65,000 homes.
Iberdrola hopes to complete the desert power plant by the end of 2012 to take advantage of U.S. government incentives before they expire, but it still needs approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, California State Lands Commission and County of San Diego.
The next crucial review for the 200 megawatt installation is a county major use permit, said Harley McDonald, a business developer in Encinitas for Iberdrola Renewables. She foresees public hearings before the county during the first quarter of 2012.
“Our generation tie line is on county land,” McDonald said. “Without that approval we can’t tie those turbines into the grid.”
The power plant would span across federal, state, private and tribal land and consist of 67 to 133 turbines.
Iberdrola, the world’s largest wind developer and the second-largest wind-energy producer in the U.S., is partnering with the Ewiiaapaayp band of the Kumeyaay tribe, McDonald said. The company is in negotiations with San Diego Gas & Electric to sell power from the project that would count against California’s renewable energy requirements.
The state’s electricity retailers must procure one-third of their electricity from renewable-energy sources, such as wind and solar farms, by 2020.
In signing off on Tule Wind, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar endorsed an alternative for 62 turbines on public lands instead of 128 to reduce environmental impacts.
Neighbors of the project have expressed concerns about disruptions to wildlife and the area’s pristine views.
“It’s been a huge push on the part of the feds to promote this agenda,” said community activist Donna Tisdale of Boulevard. “Tule Wind is just another waste of taxpayer money and is really disruptive for our community.”
Salazar also announced the approval a 300-megawatt solar farm southwest of Phoenix – one of 25 renewable energy projects approved on U.S. public lands in the past two years.
“Together, these projects will produce the clean energy equivalent of nearly 18 coal-fired power plants, so what’s happening here is nothing short of a renewable energy revolution,” Salazar said in Washington.
The Tule Wind Project must conduct studies of the golden eagle population to guide the siting of wind turbines, Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey said in a statement.
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