US government approves 500MW solar PV project in California

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The Bureau of Land Management, part of the US Department of the Interior, has authorised a 500MW solar project owned by EDF Renewable Energy, near Desert Center, in Riverside County, California.

The Palen Solar Project will cover up 1,270 hectares of BLM-administered lands and is expected to provide enough energy to power about 130,000 homes and employ more than 1,000 individuals during the project’s peak, including an on-site construction workforce of more than 550 employees. It will include a seven-mile single circuit 230-kV generation interconnection transmission line delivering power through the Southern California Edison Red Bluff Substation, under a power purchase agreement (PPA).

The project has been in planning since 2008 and was even billed to become a CSP plant under Spanish owner Abengoa, before EDF took the project back to PV technology. The 500MW PV project has drawn some criticism, as it would be developed just eight miles away from Joshua Tree National Park, while coming under fire from environmental groups for its potential impact on local wildlife.

A BLM release stated that the project would result in a private infrastructure investment of US$1 billion, with US$67.3 million in annual indirect economic benefit during construction.

“President Trump and Secretary Zinke have called for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that will ensure America's energy security, while also strengthening our infrastructure in support of the economy,” said assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joseph Balash.  “The Palen Solar Project will provide benefits to the local community and the region both now and in the future, demonstrating the critical role multiple-use public lands play for the BLM's neighbors and the nation as a whole.”

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