Green light to 500 MW concentrated solar energy project in Nevada

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has approved the second large-scale concentrating solar power project on federal land in Nevada. After it had authorized last month a 50 MW photovoltaic plant to be built in the Ivanpah Valley, it now approved the development of the 500 MW Amargosa Farm Road concentrated solar energy project.

Under the project, two 250 MW identical concentrating solar thermal will be built, based on the technology of parabolic linear collectors, equipped with a heat storing system. The occupied area, located about 130 miles northeast of Las Vegas, amounts to 4,350 acres on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the Department of the Interior (DOI).

The project has passed a thorough environmental review, during which the National Park Service worked closely with the company proposing (Solar Millennium LLC), in order to limit as much as possible the land to be used and to develop an innovative plan to reduce the use of water, which will be applied to future large-scale thermodynamic solar projects.

The project will benefit from tax credits for about a billion dollars under the economic recovery provisions (Recovery and Reinvestment Act) enforced by the Obama Administration.

Secretary Salazar Approves Second Large-Scale Solar Energy Project on Public Lands in Nevada

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the second large-scale solar energy project ever on U.S. public lands in Nevada. When completed, the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project, an initiative of Solar Millennium LLC, will be a 500-megawatt facility that provides electricity to about 150,000 homes and creates 1,300 construction jobs and up to 200 permanent operation jobs.

“This solar facility is yet another critical component in the Department’s growing renewable energy portfolio as we work to strengthen our nation’s energy security,” Secretary Salazar said in signing the Record of Decision for the project. “Our commitment to the development of clean, renewable energy is creating new jobs that will aid in our economic recovery, protect our environment and transform the way our nation gets our energy.”

“Development of solar, geothermal, wind and transmission line projects on our public lands demonstrates the Department and the BLM’s commitment to the production of renewable energy resources,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “These projects also exemplify the smart collaborative stakeholder partnerships we continue to develop to help us achieve our common goals to protect our natural environmental while utilizing America’s wealth of renewable energy resources.”

The Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project will employ concentrated solar power technology that will include two 250 megawatt parabolic trough, dry-cooled power plants equipped with thermal energy storage capability. The project will be located in the Amargosa Valley about 80 miles northwest of the town of Las Vegas, in Nye County, Nevada, on 4,350 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The project has undergone extensive environmental review, starting with public scoping and followed by a draft environmental impact statement with full public involvement and a final Environmental Impact Statement published on October 15, which set the stage for a November 15 signing.

The BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service worked closely with Solar Millennium to develop an innovative water mitigation plan that can serve as a model for future solar projects. The plan ensures that the project will have a net neutral benefit on the plant and animal species found at nearby Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Devils Hole.

The BLM also worked with Solar Millennium to reduce the approved project footprint from 7,630 acres to 6,320 acres with a disturbance area of 4,350 acres. BLM will require a natural color palette and minimum night lighting measures to reduce visual impacts on the local community.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s incentives for specified energy programs, Solar Millennium would be eligible for approximately $1 billion in Investment Tax credits. The company is also eligible to apply for financing through the DOE Title 17 Loan Guarantee Program. The project is in negotiations to sell electricity to NV Energy under the terms of a power purchase agreement. The power will be supplied to the grid through Valley Electric Association, Inc.’s transmission lines.

Today’s announcement is part of the administration’s initiative to encourage the rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on U.S. public lands. Since early October, the Secretary has approved a total of eight large-scale solar energy projects, the first to be built on U.S. public lands in California and Nevada, that combined will generate 3,500 megawatts to power more than 1 million homes and generate 6,000 construction jobs and 700 permanent plant operations jobs.

Last month, Salazar approved the first solar energy project on U.S. public lands in Nevada — First Solar, Inc.’s Silver State North Solar Project, a 50 megawatt facility and associated infrastructure to be built in the Ivanpah Valley, 40 miles south of Las Vegas. In addition, on October 19, Salazar attended the groundbreaking of the One Nevada Transmission Line that will carry electrical power over a 235-mile system. When completed, the 500 kilovolt line will extend from north of Las Vegas, Nevada to Burley, Idaho, providing a critical link for the northern and southern power grids serving Nevada. The line will provide the transmission infrastructure needed to make proposed wind, solar and geothermal power generation projects throughout Nevada viable.