BLM takes comment on 358-MW solar project in California

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared environmental documents for the 358-MW Soda Mountain Solar Project, to be located in San Bernardino County, Calif.

BLM has prepared a Draft Joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Plan Amendment for the Soda Mountain Solar Project, the agency said in a notice to be published in the Nov. 29 Federal Register. The publication of that notice opens a 90-day comment period on those documents.

BLM has received a right-of-way (ROW) application from Soda Mountain Solar LLC to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission a solar photovoltaic (PV) facility proposed on 4,179 acres with solar fields occupying approximately 2,557 acres of BLM-administered public lands in San Bernardino County. The project would be built in several phases.

It would connect to the existing Los Angeles Department of Water and Power 500-kV transmission line to the west of the project using a transmission interconnect from the proposed substation. The project would not require any expansion of the existing transmission line or any upgrades.

The project would be adjacent to Interstate 15, south of Blue Bell Mine Road, about six miles southwest of Baker, Calif., and 12 miles northeast of Barstow, Calif. The site is located near the National Park Service’s Mojave National Preserve, Soda Mountain and Cady Mountains Wilderness Study Areas, and the Rasor Off Highway Vehicle and Afton Canyon Special Recreation Management Areas within the BLM’s CDCA.

All proposed project components would be located on BLM-administered lands subject to a ROW grant. The existing roads would provide access to the proposed project site. New minor internal roads would be constructed among collector lines, substation, arrays and sub arrays, and other ancillary facilities. The interconnection to the proposed substation and collector lines from the arrays would be via underground trench, including underground trenching of Interstate-15. Once approved and operational, the proposed Project is expected to have up to 358 MW of generating capacity.

The Draft EIS/EIR describes the following six alternatives:

  • Alternative A: The Proposed Action – 358 MW on 2,557 acres;
  • Alternative B – 264 MW project on 2,127 acres;
  • Alternative C – 298 MW project on 2,354 acres;
  • Alternative D – 250 MW project on 2,134 acres;
  • Alternative E: No action alternative/no project approval – no issuance of a ROW Grant, no county approval of a groundwater well permit, no Land Use Plan (LUP) amendment;
  • Alternative F – BLM approves project with no county approval of a groundwater well permit; and
  • Alternative G – Planning decision identifying the area as unsuitable for solar, with no BLM ROW-LUP Plan Amendment (PA), no issuance of a ROW Grant, and no county approval of a groundwater well permit.

All of the action alternatives, except Alternative E, would include an amendment to the CDCA Plan. Alternative A is the preferred alternative in the Draft EIS.

“Soda Mountain Solar, LLC, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bechtel Development Company, Inc., a world-class contractor delivering high-quality, responsible development and reliable project execution,” said the website of the project developer. “The Soda Mountain Solar project is part of Bechtel’s commitment to advancing renewable energy development.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.