The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Commissioners approved the final Environmental Impact Report to move forward with a new energy generation facility that will provide up to 120 megawatts (MW) of wind power for the City of Los Angeles. The Pine Tree Wind project will be the largest municipally owned wind plant in the U.S. and the largest wind system built in the Western U.S. since passage of the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.
It will be located on 8,000 acres (about 12.5 square miles) in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, approximately 12 miles north of Mojave, Calif. It consists of 80, 1.5 MW wind turbines, a 10-mile transmission line and an electrical substation. The size of the site was reduced from the original 22,000-acres on privately owned property.
"The Pine Tree Wind Project will be a powerful step toward achieving my goal of a 20 percent renewable power mix by 2017," said Mayor Jim Hahn.
The Board's action today paves the way for construction of the project, slated to begin this summer and take about 10 months to complete. LADWP expects to seek approval of the construction contract from the Board and City Council, as well as take steps to acquire the necessary permits over the next few months.
Although the state-mandated RPS does not apply to municipal utilities such as LADWP, the Los Angeles City Council approved an RPS resolution in 2004 that calls for LADWP to increase the amount of energy it provides from renewable power sources to 13 percent of its energy sales to retail customers by 2010 and 20 percent by 2017.
A coalition of environmental organizations -- including the Coalition for Clean Air, Global Green USA, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles -- voiced support for the project during today's Board meeting. In a letter addressed to the Board, the group's stated that LADWP has taken appropriate steps to address stakeholder concerns about the project's impacts on the local community, wildlife and natural resources.
"Pine Tree is an excellent project model for a municipal utility: to engage private experienced developers to build and transfer ownership to the City of a large, renewable energy project that provides reliable, cost-effective and environmentally preferable energy to ratepayers," the letter stated.
In terms of environmental benefits, the Pine Tree Wind project is expected to lower emissions of nitrogen oxides by at least 8 tons per year and emissions of carbon monoxide by at least 11 tons per year. Further, emissions of carbon dioxide would be reduced by at least 200,000 tons per year. By reducing use of fossil fuels, the project would also displace LADWP's annual gas costs by about $15 million per year.
The final EIR addresses two major concerns raised during the environmental review process, including the potential impact to birds that may come in contact with the turbine blades, and potential conflicts between recreational users and construction traffic on Jawbone Canyon Road.
In response to avian concerns, LADWP completed additional avian surveys in fall 2004 and winter 2005. An avian specialist determined the site of the project is not a major pathway or stopover for migrating birds. In addition, the avian studies will continue through this spring and early summer, and a qualified ornithologist will monitor bird mortality incidents for one year following the first delivery of power. The EIR contains language that requires LADWP to make operational changes if there are disproportionately high levels of bird deaths compared to other turbines on the site.
A copy of the final EIR is posted on the LADWP website.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the largest municipally owned utility in the nation.