Salazar Approves Largest Solar Project On Public Lands

U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar has approved the Blythe Solar Project, which the DOI says is the largest solar project ever to be built on public lands. When completed, the project is expected to produce up to 1,000 MW.

The project – proposed by Palo Verde Solar I, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium LLC – uses parabolic-trough technology, and will cover 7,025 acres of public lands eight miles west of Blythe in Riverside County, Calif. It is expected to create 1,066 jobs at the peak of construction and 295 permanent jobs.

Salazar's decision authorizes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer Solar Millennium a right-of-way grant to use these public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Solar Millennium is eligible to secure $1.9 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy for this project.

The Blythe project has undergone extensive environmental review, starting with public scoping in November 2009, followed by a draft environment impact statement (EIS) in March 2010 and a final EIS on Aug. 20, 2010. In September, the project was licensed by the California Energy Commission, which regulates solar thermal projects in California that generate at least 50 MW.

The BLM is requiring that Solar Millennium provide funding for more than 8,000 acres of desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat to mitigate the project's impacts.

A new 230 kV transmission line will be constructed to connect the Blythe Solar Project to the Devers-Palo Verde #2 500 kV line at the Colorado River substation.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior

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