The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing an action (the Proposed Action) to continue management and operation of the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) site in Golden, Colorado at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and to potentially implement the following improvements:
- Increase and enhance research and support capabilities by constructing new facilities, modifying existing facilities, upgrading infrastructure, and site maintenance in the Research and Support Facilities areas (Zone 1 and Zone 2)
- Increase site use and density by adding wind turbines, meteorological towers and associated infrastructure, and grid storage test equipment at existing and proposed field test sites (Zone 2)
- Expand NWTC’s power capacity to 50 megawatts (MW)
These improvements would provide facilities and infrastructure that would adequately support the site’s purpose and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) mission to research and develop renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended [42 United States Code (U.S.C.) 4321 et seq.) (NEPA), and DOE’s NEPA implementing regulations [10 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1021], DOE is required to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of DOE facilities, operations, and related funding decisions prior to taking action. DOE must apply the NEPA review process early in the planning stages for DOE proposals, and use the information to make an informed decision prior to undertaking a proposed action.
In 1996, DOE issued the National Wind Technology Center Site-Wide Environmental Assessment (DOE/EA-1127) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for site and infrastructure upgrades including constructing up to 20 new turbine field test sites, installing underground data and telecommunication cables, installing electrical infrastructure, improving site access roads, and operating and testing wind turbines. Operation and testing activities analyzed in the environmental assessment (EA) included ongoing installation, maintenance, operation, and testing of up to 20 wind turbines, and subsequent removal of wind turbines.
In May 2002, DOE issued the Final Site-Wide Environmental Assessment of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center (DOE/EA-1378) and a FONSI for proposed short-term and long-term improvements at the NWTC. Short-term improvements included:
- Expanding the Structural Blade Testing Facility and Dynamometer test facility
- Installing 20 additional field test sites and three utility-scale turbines
- Installing additional smaller turbines
- Constructing the Distributed Energy Resources Test Facility (DERTF)
- Installing a 25-kilowatt (kW) electrolyzer system
- Research activities, building renovations, and modifications.
Long-term improvements included:
- 50,000 square feet of additional laboratory, office, or other support space
- Two additional utility-scale turbines
- New roadways and parking areas.
To address future agency plans, functions, programs and resource utilization, and changes to the regional environment, DOE has determined that a new comprehensive site-wide EA should be prepared to address potential impacts of continued operations, future site development, and changes in the local environment, as defined in the Proposed Action.