A branch of the Native American Kumeyaay Nation in southeastern California announced on Thursday signing an agreement with a wind energy developer Invenergy and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to place 160 megawatts of wind turbines on its land.
The project is expected to cost about $300 million to build.
The project would come online in early 2012, pending approval by federal officials as well as California utilities regulators for the sale of the power to SDG&E, said Monique La Chappa, chairwoman of the Campo Band of Mission Indians of the Kumeyaay Nation.
The Campo Band is already the Native American tribe with the most wind development on its land, La Chappa said. It leases land for a 50-MW wind project on a ridge at 5,000-foot altitude. The specific site for the new project has yet to be chosen, she said.
La Chappa said it will have a more active role in the new project, and is negotiating for an equity share of it.
This project represents the tip of the iceberg for renewable energy development in eastern San Diego County, which will spark creation of new green-collar jobs, said La Chappa.
About 150 construction workers will be employed during construction, and about a dozen workers will run the wind farm.
The Campo Band is a gaming tribe with 340 members, most of whom live on its reservation. The current 50-MW wind project is about 1.5 miles from the tribe's 8-year-old Golden Acorn Casino that has 750 slot machines and 12 gaming tables.
The tribe wants to diversify its assets and developing renewable energy will do that, La Chappa said. The casino's business is down about 20 percent from last year, but La Chappa would not give specific figures.
La Chappa said more than 300 MW of wind turbines can be placed on Campo Band land, which covers 17,000 acres and borders Mexico. The town of Campo is about 50 miles east of San Diego.
SDG&E is a unit of Sempra Energy based in San Diego.
Invenergy is one of the biggest developers of wind power in the United States. It has 18 wind projects completed that total about 2,000 MW of installed turbines.
Invenergy is headquartered in Chicago and has 11 regional development offices including one in San Diego.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by David Gregorio)