Air Force re-works plans for big solar project at California base

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) in the June 15 Federal Register will issue a notice to update the public on changes to the joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the Oro Verde Solar Project (OVSP) at Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County, California.

The Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a joint project-level EIS/EIR for the Oro Verde Solar Project was originally published in the Federal Register on May 29, 2013. Since the publication of the NOI, the Air Force is no longer partnering with the originally-selected project developer for the Oro Verde Solar Project. However, the Air Force is continuing with completion of an EIS/EIR at a broader programmatic level to support future project implementation. The Air Force has retitled this project the Edwards AFB Solar EUL Project Programmatic EIS/EIR.

In order to update the public on changes to the programmatic EIS/EIR proposal and effectively define the full range of issues to be evaluated, the Air Force and Kern County are soliciting additional comments from interested state and federal agencies and interested members of the public. The Air Force and Kern County request comments be sent within 30 days following the publication of this June 15 Notice of Intent in the Federal Register.

The programmatic EIS/EIR will provide the information needed by the Air Force and County to make a determination on whether or not to implement a solar photovoltaic (PV) project on up to a maximum of 4,000 acres of undeveloped, non-excess real property in the northwest corner of Edwards AFB. The analysis will also evaluate the environmental impacts associated with construction of a transmission tie (gen-tie) line that is anticipated to be 10-14 miles in length. Final routing would depend on the ability of a future developer to secure access easements from public and private entities.

The project area is located approximately 6 miles northeast of the community of Rosamond and 6 miles south of Mojave in southeastern Kern County, California.

The proposal and alternatives being evaluated in the Edwards AFB Solar EUL Project Programmatic EIS/EIR have remained consistent with those presented in the 2013 Notice of Intent and Scoping sessions, though the Air Force is now considering a 1,500 acre development instead of a 2,000 acre development for its reduced-scale project alternative (Alternative B). The area proposed for solar PV development is the same area presented in 2013.

Alternatives evaluated in the Edwards AFB Solar EUL Project Programmatic EIS/EIR include the No Action Alternative and two additional alternatives.

  • Alternative A includes development of a solar PV project on up to 4,000 acres of Edwards AFB property located in the northwestern corner of the base and would include construction of a gen-tie line of approximately 10-14 miles in total length.
  • Alternative B represents a reduced-scale alternative for the construction and operation of a solar PV facility on up to 1,500 acres of Edwards AFB non-excess property within the same project footprint as Alternative A.

The Air Force anticipates issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for proposals from public and/or private entities to construct, operate, and maintain a utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) facility. The future selected developer(s) would complete additional site-specific environmental impact analysis tiering from the Edwards AFB Solar EUL Project Programmatic EIS/EIR to address any facility design issues requiring additional analysis.

The up-to-450-MW Oro Verde Solar Project was previously being pursued by SunEdison LLC.

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.