Interior Secretary Jewell commissions 550-MW Desert Sunlight project

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze helped officially dedicated the 550-MW Desert Sunlight solar project in California on Feb. 9.

Now operating at full capacity, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is providing 550 MW. It is the nation’s largest solar project on public land, the Interior Department said in a news release.

The BLM issued its right-of-way grant for Desert Sunlight in August 2011. Developed by First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) and owned by NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE), the project employed an average of 440 workers during construction. NextEra calculates about 3.6 million man-hours of work were required to complete the facility and more than 40 California businesses contributed to the project, selling materials, equipment, utilities, labor, housing and food services.

Desert Sunlight is located on about 4,100 acres managed by the BLM in Riverside County, Calif. It is about 70 miles east of Palm Springs and six miles north of the rural community of Desert Center.

Public lands managed by BLM, especially in the Southwest, play a key role in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to approve about 20,000 MW of renewable energy projects on public land by 2020.

The facility uses more than eight million First Solar photovoltaic modules to generate power with no air emissions, no waste production and no water use. The thin film technology has the smallest carbon footprint of any photovoltaic technology.

The renewable energy is sold to Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE:PCG) and Edison International (NYSE:EIX) utility Southern California Edison (SCE) under long-term contracts.

Nationwide, the BLM has approved 52 utility-scale renewable energy projects since 2009 – including 29 solar projects – with a total capacity of over 14,000 MW.

If built as approved, these projects would provide more than 21,000 jobs and power about 4.8 million homes. Before 2009, there were no solar projects approved on public lands.

“Solar projects like Desert Sunlight are helping to create American jobs, develop domestic renewable energy and cut carbon pollution,” said Secretary Jewell. “I applaud the project proponents for their vision and entrepreneurial spirit to build this solar project and commend Governor Brown for implementing policies that take action on climate change and help move our nation toward a renewable energy future.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.