Feds approve three solar projects, for a total of 440 MW, in Nevada

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on June 1 announced the approval of the first three solar energy projects to benefit from the streamlined permitting process of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Western Solar Plan.

When built, the three solar energy projects on public lands in Clark County, Nevada, will generate up to 440 MW. The new projects – Invenergy’s Harry Allen Solar Energy Center, First Solar’s Playa Solar Project, and NV Energy’s Dry Lake Solar Energy Center – were submitted for approval by the three successful bidders to a competitive auction BLM held in June 2014. The auction was part of the competitive leasing process required for solar energy zones under the terms of the Western Solar Plan.

The Western Solar Plan allows for a more efficient and predictable permitting process by focusing development in solar energy zones with the highest resource potential and lowest conflicts. The expedited reviews of these three projects were completed in less than 10 months, or less than half the amount of time it took under the previous project-by-project system. These reviews also include consideration of the first regional mitigation strategy for solar energy zone projects.

“Through thoughtful planning and upfront public participation, these solar projects demonstrate we can reduce permitting times, create certainty for energy developers, and achieve better outcomes for communities and the environment,” said Jewell. “Through a landscape-level approach, we are cutting carbon pollution and creating jobs through responsible solar development on our public lands.”

“Today’s announcement realizes the promise of the Western Solar Plan and reinforces the BLM’s commitment to smart-from-the-start renewable energy development in the West,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Projects like these demonstrate that regional planning and mitigation can achieve much faster permitting times and better outcomes. The Western Solar Plan provides a win-win approach for communities and for our public lands.”

The BLM will require what it called a “robust” set of mitigation measures to avoid, minimize, or compensate for adverse impacts of the proposed development, including an offsite mitigation fee to fund mitigation projects that will compensate for unavoidable impacts as a result of the solar projects. BLM will also require funding for long-term tortoise monitoring, post-construction monitoring of birds and bats in compliance with the approved Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy, salvage and relocation of special-status plants, and measures to reduce visual impacts.

Under the Western Solar Plan, BLM has designated 19 Solar Energy Zones covering more than 298,000 acres of public land. If fully developed, projects in the designated leasing areas could produce as much as 27 GW of solar energy.

Under the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is taking a wide array of actions using existing authorities to reduce carbon pollution, increase energy efficiency, expand renewable and other low-carbon energy sources, and strengthen resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts. As part of the plan, announced in June 2013, the President directed the Interior Department to approve at least 20,000 MW of renewable energy capacity on the public lands by 2020.

With the approval of the three Dry Lake solar projects, since 2009, the BLM has authorized 55 solar, wind, and geothermal utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, including associated electric transmission facilities and infrastructure to connect to established power grids, for a total of 14,599 MW of renewable energy capacity.

Details of these projects are:

Harry Allen Solar Energy Center

Invenergy’s 130-MW Harry Allen project would be built in two phases. Phase I would consist of about 112 MW (ac) of capacity and Phase II would consist of approximately 18 MW. The project is located about 15 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The town of Moapa is located 18 miles northeast, and the town of Overton is located 23 miles east of the project. All of the proposed project facilities are located on public lands administered by the BLM.

The power output would flow through a project substation onto an approximately 3,575-foot-long, single-circuit, 230-kV gen-tie line to the point of interconnection at the nearby Harry Allen substation of NV Energy.

Playa Solar Project

First Solar proposes to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission this project, consisting of up to a 200 MW (ac) solar PV facility on approximately 1,700 acres of BLM-administered land in the Dry Lake SEZ. The major onsite facilities are comprised of solar array blocks of First Solar PV modules, a substation, and operation and maintenance facilities.

The offsite facilities include a 3,500-foot (0.7 mile) 230-kV generation tie transmission line (gen-tie), access roads, well and water pipeline, andelectric distribution and communication lines. Power produced by the project would be conveyed to the Nevada Power (part of NV Energy) bulk transmission system via the gen-tie, which would interconnect to NV Energy’s existing Harry Allen Substation.

Dry Lake Solar Energy Center

NV Energy proposes to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission the project, consisting of up to a 130-MW (ac) solar PV facility on approximately 661 acres of BLM-administered land located within the Dry Lake SEZ. The major on-site facilities comprise solar array blocks of PV modules, a substation, and operation and maintenance (O&M) facilities.

The off-site facilities include an approximate 2,000-foot, 230-kV generation tie transmission line (gen-tie line), access road, and electric distribution and communication lines. Power produced by the project would be conveyed to the Nevada Power bulk transmission system via the gen-tie line, which would interconnect to NV Energy’s existing Harry Allen Substation.

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.