DOI Approves Ninth Commercial Solar Project on Public Lands

In late December, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) approved the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada. The concentrating solar power plant will have a 110 megawatt capacity. The project will also generate about 450-500 new jobs during construction and up to 50 permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

The project, proposed by SolarReserve’s Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC of Santa Monica, California, is sited on approximately 2,250 acres administered by DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) about 13 miles northwest of Tonopah in Nye County, Nevada. It was the ninth large-scale solar facility to be green-lighted under the Obama Administration’s initiative to encourage rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on U.S. public lands.

The Crescent Dunes plant will use concentrating solar thermal “power tower” technology to contribute 485,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy to the Nevada grid each year. This innovative technology uses mirror fields to focus solar energy on a tower receiver near the center of the array of mirrors. Steam from boilers in the tower drives a turbine, which generates electricity for the transmission grid. Crescent Dunes will also have thermal energy storage capability.

To advance an environmentally appropriate project, the BLM worked closely with state, federal, and military agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and the U.S. Air Force, as well as members of the environmental and conservation communities.

To minimize impacts to biological resources, the BLM selected an alternative plan that reduced the project size from 7,680 acres to 2,250 acres. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC can qualify for grants in lieu of tax credits of up to 30% of the project’s eligible costs, as well as DOE loan guarantees to assist with the construction of the facility. The developer has acquired a power purchase agreement with NV Energy.


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