Salazar approves first ever solar project on public lands

(Oct. 13) – Today, in front of a seated group of onlookers at the 2010 Solar Power International conference in Los Angeles, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed approval for the first solar project on public lands, First Solar’s Silver State North Solar facility.

The project, located in the Ivanpah Valley, about 40 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada, will be situated on 618 acres of public land. The plant will generate 50 megawatts of power from photovoltaic technology.

“Silver State is one of several renewable energy projects in the pipeline that will help Nevada and the nation create jobs as we build a clean energy economy,” Secretary Salazar said while signing the approval, which was quoted from a Bureau of Land Management press release. “This project will provide renewable energy that will help meet our nation’s growing demand as we strive to become energy independent.”

The facility was initially engineered by Nextlight Solar. First Solar bought the firm in July 2010.

Now that Salazar has signed off on the solar project, and the federal permit has been approved, First Solar has a laundry list of items it must complete before the plant is built.

“There is a thirty-day public appeal period,” said Alan Bernheimer, spokesperson for First Solar. “The next step for us is to secure local construction permits and line up sub contractors.” 

Bernheimer said that the company estimates the plant will go live by 2011, providing energy to Nevada’s NV Energy, one of the state’s utility companies, through a power purchase agreement.

Pictured: First Solar’s Sarnia, Ontario, solar plant. First Solar does not have an artist's rendering of the Silver State plant yet.