New Era Wind Farm, LLC (New Era), f/k/a AWA Goodhue LLC (AWA Goodhue) received a site permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) on August 23, 2011 to construct a 78 megawatt (MW) large wind energy conversion system in Goodhue County, Minnesota (the Project). The site permit authorizes construction of the Project within an area that includes approximately 32,684 acres (51 square miles) (Exhibit 1), which is mostly agricultural land.
The Project will involve construction of 48 1.6 MW GE turbines with a total nameplate capacity of 76.8 MW, two project substations, collector and feeder lines, an operation and maintenance (O&M) facility, one or two permanent meteorological towers, associated access roads and a new approximately four-mile 69 kV transmission line. The final turbine layout depicts 52 total turbines locations, of which 48 are primary turbines and will actually be constructed and four are alternate locations (see Exhibit 1). The number of turbines has been reduced from 52, as originally proposed, to 48 by shifting from 1.5 MW turbines to using entirely 1.6 MW machines. The four alternate turbine locations exist in case any proposed turbine locations are eliminated due to unforeseen constraints.
Throughout this Avian and Bat Protection Plan (ABPP), several terms are used to describe areas covered by wildlife surveys. Early survey work was based on the Site Permit Area as defined below. As the layout of turbines and other infrastructure became more refined and certain, wildlife survey areas were narrowed in accordance with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) guidelines. The terms used to describe areas in this ABPP are as follows:
Site Permit Area – The term “Site Permit Area” shown on Exhibit 1 refers to the 32,684 acre area permitted for the Project on August 23, 2011.
Operational Project Area – In past reports, the term “Operational Project Area” was used to approximate the area within which project infrastructure would be built and was used as a baseline for winter aerial and ground transect surveys for Important Eagle Use Areas (IEUAs). This area was defined by adding a two-mile buffer around all turbines, roads and cable routes and then subtracting two miles to generate a polygon. This area is almost identical to the portion of the “Project Footprint” (defined below) that encompasses all project infrastructure except the transmission line at the north end of the Project.
Project Footprint – The term “Project Footprint” is defined in the 2011 USFWS Draft ECP Guidance as: “…the ‘minimum-convex polygon’ that encompasses the wind-facility area inclusive of a 100-meter radius of all turbines and any associated utility infrastructure, roads, etc.” The boundary of the “Project Footprint” and a two mile survey buffer used in the Programmatic Non-purposeful Bald Eagle Take Permit application (eagle permit) and eagle-related field surveys is depicted in Exhibit 2. The Project Footprint comprises approximately 22,314 acres.
Project Area – The term “Project Area” is defined in the March 27, 2012 USFWS Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines as “[t]he area that includes the project site as well as contiguous land that shares relevant characteristics.” The term “Project Area” is considered synonymous with the term “Site Permit Area” and the latter term has been used throughout the text of this ABPP.
Project Site – The term “Project Site” is defined in the March 27, 2012 USFWS Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines as “[t]he land that is included in the project where development occurs or is proposed to occur.” The term “Project Site” is considered synonymous with the term “Project Footprint”. To minimize confusion, the limits of the wildlife surveys described in this ABPP will be described as they relate to the “Site Permit Area” and/or the “Project Footprint.” The terms “Operational Project Area,” “Project Area,” “Project Site” will generally not be used in this ABPP.