While news of the White House solar installation captured the world's attention yesterday, another historic change that could have greater impact on solar energy in the U.S. was taking place.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, announced it had approved the first large-scale solar-energy projects to ever be built on public land.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed final versions of the Records of Decision for two solar installations, both of which happen to be on public lands in California. They will have a large impact on the amount of electricity generated from solar as a result.
"There are 11 million acres of public lands in the California Desert, and a large majority of those lands are managed for conservation purposes. These projects, while a significant commitment of public land, actually represent less than one-hundredth of one percent of that total area. Given the many benefits, the extensive mitigation measures, and the fair market value economic return, approval of these projects is clearly in the public interest," Salazar said in a statement.
One of the alternative-energy projects approved was proposed by a subsidiary of the oil giant Chevron.
The Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, which will be overseen by the Chevron subsidiary Chevron Energy Solutions of California, was granted use of 422 acres of public land in San Bernardino County, Calif., for the purpose of building a 45-megawatt solar plant consisting of 40,500 solar panels. The land is located near California State Route 247 north of San Bernardino National Forest and abuts an existing transmission line. When complete it's expected to generate enough electricity to power between 13,500 and 33,750 homes at any given time. (The range takes into consideration the natural fluctuation in available solar power.)
Another project, the Imperial Valley Solar Project, which will be overseen by Tessera Solar of Texas, was granted use of 6,360 acres of public lands in Imperial County, Calif. It's desert land located along Interstate 8 near Plaster City, Calif., just north of the California-Mexico border. That plant will consist of 28,360 parabolic solar dishes estimated to produce about 709 megawatts worth of energy annually. Once up and running, that plant is expected to provide enough energy to power between 212,700 and 531,750 homes at any given time.… Read more