SEIA - Solar News: First Solar Projects on BLM Land

 

As you plan your news coverage in the coming weeks, I wanted to update you on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) efforts to ‘fast-track’ the review of pending applications for solar projects on public lands. To put this in perspective, until now, utility-scale solar power projects have received zero permits to produce clean energy on public lands. Oil and gas companies, however, have received more than 74,000 permits to operate on federal lands over the past two decades.
Several projects have reached a significant milestone in the development process, signaling progress in advancing some of the first solar energy plants to be built on public lands -- an effort supported by 3 out of 4 Americans.
Final Environmental Impact Statements (FEIS) have been published for six utility-scale solar power projects that will provide nearly 3 gigawatts (GW) of clean, safe electricity to more than half a million homes once fully operational:
-      Project: Imperial Valley Solar Project
Company: Tessera Solar
Location: Imperial County, Calif.
Technology: Dish-Engine
MW Capacity: 709 MW (enough to power at least 142,000 homes)
Status: Final Environmental Impact Statement published on July 28, 2010
 
-      Project: Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project
Company: BrightSource Energy, Inc.
Location: San Bernardino County, Calif.
Technology: Power Tower
MW Capacity: 392 MW (enough to power at least 78,000 homes)
Status: Final Environmental Impact Statement published on August 6, 2010
 
-      Project: Calico Solar Project
Company: Tessera Solar
Location: San Bernardino County, Calif.
Technology: Dish-Engine
MW Capacity: 850 MW (enough to power at least 170,000 homes)
Status: Final Environmental Impact Statement published on August 6, 2010
 
-      Project: Lucerne Valley Solar Project
Company: Chevron Energy Systems
Location: San Bernardino County, Calif.
Technology: Photovoltaic
MW Capacity: 45 MW (enough to power at least 9,000 homes)
Status: Final Environmental Impact Statement published on August 13, 2010
 
-      Project: Blythe Solar Power Project
Company: Chevron Energy Solutions and Solar Millennium LLC
Location: Riverside County, Calif.
Technology: Parabolic Trough
MW Capacity: 968 MW (enough to power at least 193,000 homes)
Status: Final Environmental Impact Statement published on August 20, 2010
 
-      Project: Genesis Solar Energy Project
Company: NextEra Energy Resources, LLC
Location: Riverside County, Calif.
Technology: Parabolic Trough
MW Capacity: 250 MW (enough to power at least 50,000 homes)
Status: Final Environmental Impact Statement published on August 27, 2010
 
FEIS is Important Milestone in Project Permitting on Public Lands
These projects are now subject to a public comment period (generally 30 days). Once the final public comment period is closed and any final concerns are addressed, the U.S. Department of the Interior may issue a Record of Decision (ROD) formally approving a project’s permit to commence construction.
Obtaining the FEIS is a key milestone in the permitting process. Utility-scale solar power projects proposed on public lands must undergo an extensive review process as established by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The process is managed by BLM and includes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state, and local permitting authorities. Detailed surveys and analyses of a project site are conducted over the course of many months to identify all possible impacts. In addition, multiple public meetings are scheduled for community input. 
Background on the BLM Fast-Track program, Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development
In June 2009, the Department of Interior announced its fast-track program for renewable energy and transmission projects on public lands under BLM management. The agency designated fast-track projects as those “where the companies involved have demonstrated to the BLM that they have made sufficient progress to formally start the environmental review and public participation process. These projects could potentially be cleared by December 2010, thus making them eligible for economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”
In total, there are 23 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar projects in the development pipeline in the United States. This is enough to power more than 4.5 million homes with pollution-free electricity while creating tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs.
 
Strong Support for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands
These numbers have not escaped public attention. Solar is the most popular choice among the public for meeting energy needs. In fact, 92 percent (9 out of every 10) of Americans feel the U.S. should develop and use more solar energy, according to an independent poll by Ketchum Research.
And 3 out of every 4 Americans approve of solar energy development on public lands, according to a national survey conducted by Gotham Research Group. Additionally, solar power is the top choice (38 percent) as the best use of public land. This number is nearly twice the percentage that supports oil and gas drilling.