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Interior gives thumbs up to wind farm northwest of Kingman

Project will have 243 turbines

KINGMAN - The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has approved a major wind project that would place up to 243 wind turbines on federal land as part of the Mohave County Wind Farm.

The project, proposed by BP Wind Energy North America Inc., will provide up to 500 megawatts to the electricity grid that could power up to 175,000 houses. Also, it will create about 750 direct and indirect jobs through construction and operations, with those employees making about $2.6 million annually.

Mohave County Wind Farm will be located about 40 miles northwest of Kingman.

But the project, which involves right-of-way grants for the use of about 35,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management property and 2,800 acres of Bureau of Reclamation land, wasn't an easy sell to the DOI. BP Wind Energy North America Inc. was required to perform significant mitigation to minimize impact to wildlife and other resources, including reducing the project's footprint by about 20 percent from the original proposal.

According to DOI, the smaller footprint will protect golden eagle habitat and reduce visual and noise impact to the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. In particular, the approval bars the installation of wind turbines within designated sensitive areas to avoid golden eagle nesting locations. It also provides for a 1.2-mile buffer zone to protect the nests. And no wind turbines will be closer than a quarter-mile to private property.

Officials from BP Wind Energy North America Inc. did not return calls for comment.

Ruben Sanchez, field manager for the BLM Kingman field office, said he doesn't expect construction on Mohave County Wind Farm to begin until 2014. The Kingman field office, which has been studying the proposal and its impact since 2009, will oversee the project when that time comes, said Sanchez.

The DOI noted the project is part of President Obama's plan to move the economy toward American-made clean energy sources.

About 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

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