Just a couple of weeks ago the Department of Interior announced the final version of the solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) allowing solar projects to be developed on specified lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management throughout U.S. desert southwest. Now the Obama administration is fast tracking nearly 5 gigawatts of solar and wind projects in the U.S. west—including at 3 gigawatts, what will be the largest wind park in the world.
The majority of the projects, however, are solar projects in the U.S. Southwest. Obama announced the projects as a “We Can’t Wait” initiative, which is designed to get the projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming underway as soon as possible. In a release, the White House said that the projects will provide enough electricity to power approximately 1.5 million homes.
Almost all of the fast-tracked projects are on land managed by the BLM, with the exception of the 200 megawatt Moapa Solar Energy Center being developed by RES Americas. The project will be built on tribal lands in Nevada on tribal lands. It will include 100 MW of photovoltaic technology and 100 MW of concentrated solar power technology. Once constructed, this proposed project would be one of the first large-scale solar projects on tribal lands in the U.S.
The other solar projects consist of the 100 megawatt Quartzsite Solar Energy project being developed by Solar Reserve in Arizona, the 150 megawatt Desert Harvest Solar Energy project being developed by enXco in California, the 750 megawatt McCoy Solar Energy project being developed by NextEra in California and the 350 megawatt Silver State South project being developed by First Solar in Nevada. The other two projects, the 3 gigawatt Chokecherry/Sierra Madre Wind Energy project being developed by Power Company of Wyoming and the 425 megawatt Mohave Wind Energy being developed by BP Wind in Arizona. Decisions on whether or not to move forward on the projects will come as soon as December 2012.
Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar discussed the decision at the National Clean Energy Summit 5.0. “What the president has also said is it’s important for us to provide streamlining in our permitting process and certainty in our regulatory process,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been working on for three and a half years and it’s because we have this permitting process in place that we’re confident that these major seven infrastructure renewable energy projects can in fact be done. So we will put them on a fast track, both at the White House and within the department of interior and through the whole of the United States government.”
This is likely just the beginning. In the White House release it is mentioned that more infrastructure projects will be announced in the coming weeks.