Solar Power Plants to Rise on Land U.S.
Both plants are to rise in the
A 45-megawatt system proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions and featuring arrays of up to 40,500 solar panels will be built on 422 acres of the
Mr. Salazar is expected to sign off on perhaps five more projects this year; the combined long-term output of all the plants would be four times that of the first two.
“It’s our expectation we will see thousands of megawatts of solar energy sprouting on public lands,” he told reporters.
The announcement, which came shortly after the White House unveiled plans to install the latest generation of solar panels on the roof of its living quarters, reflects a need to enable solar manufacturers to break ground by the end of 2010 so they can share in soon-to-expire grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy.
Federal stimulus grants and federal loan guarantees could underwrite as much as hundreds of millions of dollars or more of the $2.1 billion
The decision also follows a long series of setbacks for climate and energy legislation in Congress. After passage of a House bill last year, efforts to advance a major emissions-reducing bill through the Senate collapsed over the summer for lack of votes linked to fears of a voter backlash.
In addition to the two plants approved Tuesday, projects that are poised to gain approval by the end of the year include BrightSource Energy’s proposed 370-megawatt Ivanpah facility, Tessera’s 850-megawatt Calico project, NextEra’s 250-megawatt Genesis Solar Energy Plant and Solar Millennium’s 1,000-megawatt Blythe project.
The next batch of approvals, Secretary Salazar said, “is something that is not months away.”
But even with federal approval, a major hurdle remains for most of the projects: finding excess capacity on transmission lines in the desert, most of which are fully booked or nearly so. At the moment, capacity exists for about 345 megawatts of the 754 megawatts that would eventually be generated by the two newly approved projects.
The rest would require a new line, like
Mr. Salazar emphasized that the Lucerne Valley and Imperial Valley projects had the support of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and the Wilderness Society.
Both projects were altered to meet environmental objections: they have a smaller footprint than was originally planned and now include greater commitments to mitigate the impact on species like the endangered desert tortoise. Imperial uses minimal water, a scarce resource in the desert. Still, local desert-protection groups remain opposed, and representatives of large environmental groups expressed support in carefully parsed statements.
“These projects were not selected by us,” said Johanna Wald, a senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They are, as it were, the cards that we were dealt. So we are doing the best that we can by working with the companies, working with the agencies,” to “make them as good as they can be.”
Jim Lyons, who works with renewable energy projects for Defenders of Wildlife, said he supported the
“It is smaller, it will go forward in two phases — that certainly is an improvement,” Mr. Lyons said. He said that to achieve such concessions, conservation groups had lodged a formal protest with the Bureau of Land Management, part of the Interior Department.
“It is important for the department to take the lessons learned from these fast-track projects and use that to develop some guidelines,” he added.
The power from the
The announcement of the planned solar panels on the roof at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which would be used to heat water and generate a small amount of electricity, came just a few weeks after the White House rebuffed an environmental organizer who tried to present the White House with a panel from an array installed by President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. (Ronald Reagan’s administration removed those panels in 1986.)
“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to
The Interior Department’s action was delayed by the need for multiple approvals from agencies ranging from the Secret Service to the General Services Administration, officials said.
John M. Broder and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs