Pattern Energy Group LP (Pattern) announced that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) for 315 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to be generated at its Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility in Southern California. The project will produce enough clean and renewable wind energy to serve more than 130,000 households a year.
"We appreciate the strong support we have received across a broad spectrum of interests for this project, which will create 300 immediate construction jobs in a community with the highest unemployment rate in the nation," said Mike Garland, chief executive officer of Pattern Energy. "Pattern is proud to implement cutting-edge measures for avoiding impacts on cultural and environmental resources. We will continue to work closely with the community and Native Americans, as well as environmentalists and local agencies to ensure the region's cultural heritage and environmental resources alike are preserved and protected."
Pattern has been working with the BLM and related agencies for three years in satisfying the exacting standards required to obtain the necessary permits and rights of way on BLM land. The US government has announced that facilitating permitting for renewable energy on federal lands is a key priority for the current administration and the Ocotillo project has been designated by the BLM for such consideration. Once all permits and government approvals have been received, Pattern plans to begin construction in the first half of the year and begin generating clean power by the end of 2012, utilizing the 500-kilovolt Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, recently permitted by the BLM for the purpose of transmitting the abundant renewable energy potential from this area and currently under construction. The transmission line runs directly across the project site for the 315 MW Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility, which is located near Ocotillo, Calif., in the Imperial Valley.
The project has broad support from Imperial Valley local governments, the business community and labor organizations. "Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Wind Energy Project is a key component of the renewable energy economy we are building here in Imperial County", said Gary Wyatt, a long-time member of the Board of Supervisors. "We look forward to the job creation, tax base and other economic development benefits this project will bring."
"Pattern Energy's wind project is exactly the kind of economic jumpstart the Imperial Valley needs," said Tim Kelley, chief executive officer of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation. "New construction will generate green energy jobs and help spur additional economic growth in a region known for its vast renewable resource potential."
"IBEW Local 569 strongly supports the approval and construction of the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project," said Johnny Simpson of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "The commitments made by the Project on work within the jurisdiction of Local 569 will result in the employment of local workers, and will maintain area wage and benefit standards. The Project will also support the training of IBEW apprentices in programs approved by the California Apprenticeship Council. These commitments will ensure that Project construction provides maximum economic and employment benefits to the local communities in the vicinity of the Project."
Pattern has been committed to respecting the cultural heritage of the area. The Company funded extensive on-site cultural surveys and designed the project to completely avoid direct impacts on any and all artifacts on the site. The project has received strong support from the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians.
"The Ewiiaapaayp Band strongly supports the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project," said Chairman Robert Pinto, Sr. of the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians. "Pattern Energy has exceeded all statutory and regulatory requirements through project re-design and realignments to protect tribal cultural resources and archeological sites, and we are entirely satisfied by the measures taken by Pattern in this regard."
The project has also worked closely with environmental organizations to address any concerns regarding potential impacts on Golden Eagles, Bighorn Sheep and other species.
"By the end of the year, the Imperial Valley will have a world-class wind farm, creating hundreds of jobs and generating a positive economic impact in the area, all while establishing a significant local source of clean and renewable energy for the future," added Garland.
Once construction begins, Pattern will begin implementing numerous mitigation measures that will benefit various important causes in the region. Removal of invasive tamarisk plants that have overtaken Carrizo Gorge Marsh in Anza Borrego State Park has been a priority for the Parks Department for years, to improve habitat for Bighorn Sheep and other species, and Pattern will provide $3.5 million in funding for that project.
Pattern has already provided a substantial contribution to allow the Ocotillo Desert Museum to obtain necessary equipment for its curation laboratory, and will provide substantial additional funding sufficient to allow the Museum to finally open its doors and become a center for Kumeyaay Indian culture, history and language preservation programs.
Last year, Pattern provided essential funding to allow Westside Elementary School to stay open in the face of a budget crisis during its 100th anniversary year in 2011. Pattern intends to continue to partner with the historic school to ensure that it can continue to serve the children of the Ocotillo area for the long-term. Pattern has also supported the college scholarship program of the Ocotillo Optimists Club, and intends to provide even greater support for that program once the project begins construction.
Pattern intends to explore creation of a similar scholarship program with Native American tribes in the region, to help ensure that promising young scholars from tribal communities have the opportunity to continue their education. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designated the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility as one of national priority projects in 2011. The project intends to utilize the ARRA grant available to projects that achieve operation by the end of 2012.