Interior studying major Calif. wind project on tribal lands

Source: Scott Streater, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, November 26, 2018

The Trump administration will conduct a detailed study of a proposed major wind power project on the Campo Indian Reservation, continuing an Obama-era effort to develop renewable energy across thousands of acres of Native American lands.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, in partnership with the Campo Band of Diegueno Mission Indians, will conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating the Campo Wind Energy Project, set to be located on 2,200 acres of tribal lands about 60 miles east of San Diego.

The project’s estimated 60 wind turbines would have the capacity to produce up to 252 megawatts of electricity, according to a notice in today’s Federal Register.

That’s enough to power more than 75,000 homes and businesses.

The proposed project would include a new 230-kilovolt power line on the Campo Indian Reservation and private lands, the notice says. The power line would connect with a San Diego Gas & Electric substation/switchyard that would be constructed on private lands adjacent to the Sunrise Powerlink, northeast of the reservation.

BIA, San Diego County and the California Public Utilities Commission would need to approve the substation/switchyard and related transmission line improvements, according to the notice.

The project is now open for a 30-day public scoping period running through Dec. 21 that is designed to help BIA identify issues that merit evaluation in the EIS.

A public scoping meeting is scheduled for Dec. 6 at the Campo Indian Reservation Tribal Hall in Campo, Calif., according to a separate BIA online notice.

It’s not clear how long it will take BIA to release a draft EIS; a BIA spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

But developing more renewables projects on Native American lands had been a major focus of the Obama administration.

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — who signed the record of decision approving the 250-MW Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project in 2012, which was the first major solar project built on American Indian tribal lands — noted at the time that Interior had identified 250 reservations nationwide “with significant renewable energy potential in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass” (E&E News PM, June 21, 2012).

The Energy Department several years ago estimated that solar projects on those reservations could produce up to 17,000 MW of electricity, or enough to power nearly 6 million homes.

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said during the National Tribal Energy Summit in 2015 that Indian Country has about 90,000 MW of potential renewable energy capacity (E&E News PM, Sept. 24, 2015).

Tapping into that energy potential would not only help advance renewables development but also help tribal communities economically, the Obama administration argued.

The Trump administration, while focusing mostly on increasing oil and gas drilling and mining activity on federal lands, has in recent months advanced several large-scale renewable energy projects, mostly solar power projects on lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in California and Nevada.

And BLM announced earlier this month it would conduct an EIS evaluating the proposed 100-MW Borderlands Wind Project in Catron County, N.M., near the Arizona border, which would have the capacity to power about 30,000 homes (Greenwire, Nov. 12).