Big solar: U.S. Department of Interior approves largest CSP project to be built on public lands

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The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved what will be the largest solar energy project ever to be built on U.S. public lands. The Blythe Solar Power Project, which will use parabolic trough-based concentrated solar thermal technology, will produce up to 1GW of solar power once completed.

The proposed plant (proposed by Palo Verde Solar I, a subsidiary of German-based Solar Millennium) will cover 7025 acres of public lands eight miles west of Blythe in Riverside County, CA (see map below).

The Blythe project, which is eligible to receive $1.9 billion in Department of Energy conditional loan guarantees, will be built in four 250MW sections. It is expected to create 1,066 jobs at the peak of construction and 295 permanent jobs.

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

The announcement marks the sixth solar energy project (five in California, one in Nevada) to be approved for siting on public lands, one of which—the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada state line—will break ground this week.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision authorizes the Bureau of Land Management 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, which include providing funds to support habitat for endangered desert species. 

The project has undergone extensive environmental review, starting with public scoping in November 2009, followed by a draft environment impact statement in March and a final EIS on Aug. 20.

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