Project Focus: Solar Millennium gets go-ahead from Secretary of Interior on large-scale CSP project

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The U.S. Department of the Interior has given its approval to Solar Millennium for the construction of the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project; the second large-scale solar energy project to be built on U.S. public land in Nevada. The 500MW facility will use concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, including two 250MW parabolic troughs dry-cooled power plants with the ability to store 4.5 hours of thermal energy.

Located 80 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada on 4,350 acres of public land, which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees, the project is one of eight large-scale solar energy projects to be built on U.S public lands in California and Nevada. Once completed, the combined seven projects will produce 3,500MW of energy.
Although Amargosa Farm has completed wide-ranging environmental reviews, which resulted in an Environmental Impact Statement published on October 15, 2010, the project must still get final approval of the Section 404 Dredge and Fill permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and seek other State of Nevada and local permits. Solar Millennium expects to secure all required permits over the next few months and has a tentative construction start date aimed at for the end of 2011. 
Josef Eichhammer, president of Solar Trust of America and CEO of Solar Millennium, stated, “We started the permitting process three years ago and only by close cooperation with governmental agencies, environmental groups and the community, have we been able to achieve this permit for the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project. As a firm we are pleased that our use of innovative dry-cooling technologies enabled us to contribute more prominently to the local environment as well as the long-term goals for the state.”

During their investigation, the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service collaborated with Solar Millennium to create an original water mitigation plant that can serve as a model for future solar projects. The plan makes sure that the solar project will have a net neutral benefit on the plants and animals who reside in close proximity to Amargosa Farm in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Devils Hole.

Solar Millennium will be able to receive around US$1 billion in investment tax credits through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as well as becoming eligible for financing through the DOE Title 17 Loan Guarantee Program. Currently, the solar project is negotiating with NV Energy under the terms of a PPA to sell electricity produced at the site.

“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 of the Interior Ken 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.”

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