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Wind turbine project expands in Mojave; first in state to be authorized of ‘take’ of a California Condor

Another section of what will eventually become the nation’s largest wind turbine farm, the Alta Wind Energy Center, has been approved and construction is underway. The center is located between Mojave and Tehachapi.

The Bureau of Land Management has issued a Right of Way grant for the project in May, the final hurdle for the particular project before ground coulb be broke.

This Alta Wind Phase 10 brings the total combined output of the Alta Wind Project at 1,320 megawatts. When all 13 phases are complete the center will produce 1,550 MW, according to Terra-Gen LLC, Alta’s parent company. It is the equivalent of powering 275,000 homes.

Jeff Childers, project coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management, said Thursday that the project is having difficulty getting started with the latest heat wave but added the project should be complete and producing by the beginning of 2014.

The first couple steps of the project are to build a lay down yard for a work area and shade, Childers explained. He said while there are many access roads to the site, one road is being widened and smoothed to accommodate the delivery of the massive turbines.

This phase of the project was scaled from 106 to 51 turbines to “minimize the project’s footprint,” according to the BLM.

The project is also unique in that it is the first in California history to be authorized to “take” a California Condor.

“Today’s approval of the Alta East Wind Project builds upon the U.S. Department of the Interior’s commitment to expand renewable energy on public lands in a responsible way,” Jim Kenna, the BLM’s California State Director was quoted on May 24 on the BLM website. “Not only does this project create good jobs and generate clean and reliable power, but we’ve also worked closely with the company and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the protection of eagles and California Condors.”

As stated in the ROW, “Over the 30 year life of the Project, ‘Project activities are reasonably likely to result in the death of no more than one condor as a result of being struck by a turbine blade,’ and therefore the BLM’s issuance of a ROW grant for the AEWP is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the California condor.”

Terra-Gen has also applied for a similar permit for Golden Eagles.

“In the unlikely event that a condor is struck by a turbine blade,” according to the BLM, “the BLM will require Alta Windpower to cease day-time operations and implement additional measures to ensure that the project does not pose any further threat to condors.”

According to Terra-Gen Power, “When the initial 1,550 MWs of the Alta Wind Energy Center are constructed, the Alta projects will have increased wind industry jobs in California by 20 percent, and created more than 3,000 domestic manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance jobs. The Alta projects will also contribute more than $1.2 billion to the local economy in Kern County, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 52 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 446,000 cars off the road.”

The power will be sold to Southern California Edison.