Image credit: Jesse Richmond / Flickr
The US administration has approved a large-scale solar PV plant in California’s Sonora Desert, capping off a long process that saw some oppose the project on green and cultural grounds.
On Wednesday, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) authorised First Solar’s 450MW Desert Quartzite Solar Project near the city of Blythe, some 200 miles east of Los Angeles city.
As proposed, the project is estimated to cost around US$1 billion and would involve the setting up of a 2.8-mile 230 kV transmission line linking the plant to the Colorado River substation.
The go-ahead delivers a victory to Arizona-headquartered First Solar, which has for years faced numerous complaints over the PV project’s potential environmental and cultural impacts.
Various Native American Tribal governments raised concerns around the 450MW complex during the consultation process, arranged by the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Examining the complaints together with Californian and US federal historic preservation bodies, the BLM received evidence that the PV plant would pose “no adverse effect” for sensitive, ancestral sites.
Meanwhile, worries over environmental impacts were voiced by campaigners – including the so-called Citizens for Responsible Solar group – but also the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The concerns from the EPA in particular ranged from impacts on desert tortoises to air quality, mitigation monitoring, tribunal consultation, surface hydrology and erosion.
As a result, planning officials at BLM have authorised a smaller iteration of the PV complex – covering a 2,768-acre disturbance area where 3,800 had been proposed – that nonetheless retains the 450MW capacity.
“This alternative will be within the same Project boundaries as the Proposed Action but the solar PV field will be more compressed, avoiding most of the primary desert wash,” reads today’s statement from Casey Hammond, the DOI’s acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management.
This very alternative was endorsed by First Solar itself in a submission last year, amid claims it was “feasible” even if it would require “certain sacrifices” be made from its side.
Following the successful launch of Energy Storage Summit USA, we are pleased to announce its return for a 2nd year. Renowned for its quality, breadth and expertise, this event features an all-encompassing range of strategic and technical sessions on the adoption and deployment of storage. Key market drivers such as the falling price of lithium-ion batteries, investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, FERC Order 841, government incentives, grid modernization, transition from dependency on the networks to a desire for autonomy and intermittent renewable sources, all add to an exciting time for the Energy Storage value chain.
Intersolar North America is the first major solar + energy storage event of the year that connects innovators and decision makers. With a dynamic exhibition floor and robust conference program, #isna2020 provides business-to-business professionals a platform to advance business, expand education, and drive networking. Immerse yourself in three days of best-in-class conference programming and special exhibits and pavilions that showcase the industry trends, innovative solutions, and emerging talent transforming the solar, energy storage, and e-mobility markets: Join us February 4-6, 2020 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.