Today’s approvals bring to 50 the number of utility-scale renewable energy proposals and associated transmission that the Interior Department has approved since 2009, including 27 solar, 11 wind, and 12 geothermal projects. Together, the projects could support more than 20,000 construction and operations jobs and, when built, generate nearly 14,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 4.8 million homes. Thirteen of the projects are already in operation, including the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a 377-megawatt solar thermal plant that started commercial operations and delivering power to California’s electric grid last week.
“When President Obama first took office in 2009, there were no solar projects approved on public lands, and no process in place to move forward the hundreds of applications pending from businesses that wanted to harness renewable energy to help power our nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “With today’s milestone of 50 utility-scale renewable energy projects approved on public lands since our standing start in 2009, and with a number of those already producing energy for the nation’s electric grid, our clean energy future is bright.”
The first project is the 300-megawatt Stateline Solar Farm Project, a facility that will be built in San Bernardino County, California, on approximately 1,685 acres of public land located two miles south of the California-Nevada border. Using photovoltaic panels, the facility will generate enough electricity to power approximately 90,000 homes and create an estimated 400 jobs during construction and 12 permanent jobs during operations. The facility will connect to the grid via a 2.7-mile 220-kilovolt transmission line.
The second project is the 250-megawatt Silver State South Solar Project located near Primm, Nevada on approximately 2,400 acres of public land. The facility is expected to power approximately 80,000 homes and will be located adjacent to the 50-megawatt Silver State North Project, the first solar plant on public lands to deliver power to the grid. Silver State South will also use photovoltaic panels and will generate an estimated 300 jobs during construction and 15 permanent operations jobs.
Both projects are proposed by the company First Solar and have commitments from Southern California Edison to purchase the projects’ output for 20 years.
“These solar projects reflect exemplary cooperation between the Bureau of Land Management and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “Secretary Jewell’s commitment to a landscape-level approach represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public’s natural resources.”
First Solar has agreed to undertake significant project design changes and mitigation measures to minimize impacts to wildlife, water, historical, cultural and other resources. For example, the BLM worked on the Stateline proposal to reduce the project’s footprint by more than 20 percent to avoid and minimize project impacts. In addition, as part of ongoing efforts to protect the threatened Desert Tortoise, the BLM is expanding the nearby Ivanpah Desert Wildlife Management Area by more than 20,000 acres and requiring that the developer achieve 3:1 compensatory mitigation for Desert Tortoise for its 1,685 acres.
For the Silver State South project, the project design was modified to reduce the size of the facility by 100 megawatts. Mitigation measures include soil stabilization to prevent erosion and polluted runoff. In addition, the developer must fund over $3.6 million for Desert Tortoise mitigation and $3.5 million for studies intended to guide future efforts to protect the Desert Tortoise in the project area. The company must also assess the project’s potential adverse impact if archaeological properties at the site are found to be eligible for National Register of Historic Places listing.
“As we implement the President’s Climate Action Plan to generate jobs, cut carbon pollution and move our economy toward clean energy sources, we need to do so in a way that takes the long view and avoids or minimizes conflicts with important natural and cultural resources,” added Jewell.