Order speeds 5,000 MW of renewable energy in West

Seven wind and solar energy projects totaling 5,000 MW in the West on public lands will be expedited for approval through the federal permitting process, the Obama administration said Aug. 7.

The administration has dubbed it the “We Can’t Wait” initiative, which names projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming. Together, these projects would produce nearly enough power to serve approximately 1.5 million homes.

A Presidential Executive Order issued in March directed the Office of Management and Budget to oversee a government-wide effort to make the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects more efficient and effective.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to expand domestic energy production and strengthen the economy, we are working to advance smart development of renewable energy on our public lands,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “These seven proposed solar and wind projects have great potential to grow our nation’s energy independence, drive job creation, and power economies across the West.”

The larger, and one of two wind projects on the list, is the Chokecherry/Sierra Madre Wind Energy facility in Wyoming, which is the largest proposed wind farm in North America. It has an anticipated review completion, in October of 2014.

Chokecherry is a multi-tiered decision process that includes a land use plan decision anticipated in October 2012, followed by review of a series of right-of-way applications through 2014.

Mohave Wind Energy, a BP Wind project, has a target date for completing Federal permit and review decisions in January of 2013.  The site is located on approximately 38,099 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and 8,960 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Reclamation in Mohave County, Arizona.  If approved, it would produce up to 425 MW of wind energy.

Solar Reserve’s Quartzsite Solar Energy project hopes to have its review completed by December. The concentrating solar power plant would be located on approximately 1,675 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and produce an estimated 100 MW.

Desert Harvest Solar Energy, developed by enXco in California, also has a December target date. The solar photovoltaic project on approximately 1,200 acres in Riverside County would produce an estimated 150 MW.

Another project with a December approval timeline is the McCoy Solar Energy site also in Riverside County, California, being developed by NextEra Energy Resources. The 750-MW site is on 4,893 acres of BLM land.

A solar project developed in cooperation with a Native American tribe and being built by RES Americas, is the Moapa Solar Energy Center in Nevada.

The 2,000 acre site is on the Moapa River Indian Reservation and on lands administered by the BLM.  If approved, the 200 MW project would employ 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 Silver State South Solar Energy project is a solar energy generation plant proposed on 13,043 acres of public land in Nevada. It would produce an estimated 350 MW of PV-generated electricity.

Construction on the 50 MW Silver State North project has been completed, making it the first solar project on public lands to be delivering power to the grid.

In the past three years, the Department of the Interior has approved more utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands than in the past two decades combined – a total of 31 new projects.