US approves two large PV projects

The US Interior Department (DOI) has approved the siting of two large utility-scale solar PV projects totaling 550MW on public lands in California and Nevada.

The 300MW Stateline Solar Farm project will be built in San Bernardino County, California, and supply electricity for 90,000 homes. The 250MW Silver State South project will be located in Nevada and power 80,000 homes.

Southern California Edison has committed to buying the full output from both projects over a 20-year period.

First Solar is developing both projects. Last year it sold Silver State South to NextEra Energy, the largest owner of utility-scale projects in North America.

First Solar has agreed to undertake significant design changes and mitigation measures for the Stateline Solar Farm Project to minimize impacts to wildlife, water, historical, cultural and other resources, according to DOI.  

For Silver State South, the project design was modified to reduce the size of the facility by 100MW. Mitigation measures include soil stabilization to prevent erosion and polluted runoff.  In addition, the developer must fund over $3.6m for Desert Tortoise mitigation and $3.5m for studies intended to guide future efforts to protect the Desert Tortoise in the project area.

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, they 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, according to DOI.

“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,” says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.