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U.S. Government Approves 754 MW of Solar

Yesterday, the federal government approved two major solar projects planned for public lands in California. The approval came a week after the California Energy Commission also gave the green light to the developers, Tessera Solar and Chevron Energy Solutions.

The projects approved by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will employ two different types of solar technologies. The Imperial Valley Solar Project, proposed by Tessera Solar of Texas, will use Stirling Energy System's SunCatcher technology on 6,360 acres of public lands in Imperial County, California. The 28,360 dishes will have a capacity of 709 MW.

The Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions of California, will use 40,500 solar PV modules on 422 acres of public lands in San Bernardino County, California, and will have a capacity of 45 MW.

In April of 2009, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it would fast track projects if companies could demonstrate their readiness. The fast track program is part of the Administration’s overall strategy to deploy large amounts of renewables on public lands.

According to the BLM, each project has undergone thorough environmental review, including public scoping, draft environment impact statements (EIS) and final EIS’s. The companies have undertaken extensive mitigation efforts to minimize any impacts to wildlife, water and other resources. State and federal agencies have set up a joint compensation fund operated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to ensure that impacts are mitigated.

Salazar’s approval grants the U.S.-based companies access to almost 6,800 acres of public lands for 30 years to build and operate solar plants that could cumulatively produce up to 754 MW of renewable power. The two projects are the first in a series of renewable energy projects on public lands under final review by the Department of the Interior -- stay tuned for more big announcements in the solar PV and CSP space.

In other utility-scale solar news, a PPA between CSP developer SolarReserve and the utility Pacific Gas and Electric was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission today. SolarReserve will sell PG&E electricity from its 150-MW Rice Solar Energy plant over a 25-year period. The company is also on state and federal fast-track lists, making it very possible that the project will begin construction before the close of the year.

Below, BLM director Bob Abbey talks about why renewables are a priority for the federal government.

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