Former nuke test site chosen for Department of Energy’s CSP-oriented solar demo zone


A portion of a former nuclear testing ground in Nevada has been chosen as the site of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Demonstration Zone, where new concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) technologies will be tested as part of efforts to link advanced technology development and full-scale commercialization efforts.

The lands, consisting of more than 25 square miles in the southwest corner of the site, are owned by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and administered by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration. An interagency memorandum of understanding has been signed between the departments of Energy and Interior to establish the center.

The Solar Demonstration Zone will complement BLM’s establishment of 24 Solar Energy Study Areas on public lands across the U.S. Southwest by helping to ensure that the most advanced CSP technologies are ready for commercial deployment, according to DOE. Plans are under way to create a new DOE funding opportunity for demonstration projects at the Nevada Test Site that will include matching investments from the private sector.

DOE said it chose this site after reviewing 26 possible locations, evaluating factors such as solar conditions, suitable terrain, and existing infrastructure to support solar projects.

BLM and DOE are also closely coordinating with the U.S. Air Force to identify and address potential problems with locating and operating the Solar Demonstration Zone at the Nevada Test Site, which will also serve as a test bed for other solar projects proposed near military installations throughout the desert southwest.

Before selecting the site for the Solar Demonstration Zone, the federal government consulted with relevant stakeholders, including state, tribal, and local governments, as well as local utilities. 

Under the interagency agreement, DOE and DOI will continue collaborating to effectively implement the project, including working together to conduct environmental reviews, make any land status adjustments, and coordinate necessary infrastructure planning on the site. 

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