U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar has approved the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, a 550 MW solar PV project to be built in the California desert east of Palm Springs. The decision authorizes the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer Desert Sunlight Holdings a right-of-way grant to use these public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met.
The solar facility will create more than 630 jobs at peak construction and infuse an estimated $336 million into the local economy, according to the DOI.
Located on approximately 4,100 acres of public lands, the project will be developed and operated by Desert Sunlight Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of First Solar Inc. The facility will use First Solar's thin film technology. An on-site substation and a 230 kV generation tie line will connect the project to the Red Bluff substation, which will convert the power from 230 kV to 500 kV for transmission on Southern California Edison's regional grid.
The Desert Sunlight project underwent extensive environmental review and mitigation, with the final environmental impact statement issued on April 15, the DOI says. The proposed project's total footprint was reduced from 19,000 acres down to 4,144 acres. In addition, the BLM is requiring that Desert Sunlight provide funding for acquisition and enhancement of more than 7,500 acres of suitable habitat for desert tortoise and other sensitive wildlife species to help mitigate the project's potential impacts.
In June, the U.S. Department of Energy granted Desert Sunlight a conditional commitment of a $1.88 billion loan guarantee.