A 350-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant, a 100-megawatt solar power tower, and a 70-megawatt geothermal plant have been approved for public lands by the Obama administration.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) approved:

  • The Quartzsite Solar Project solar power tower to be developed by SolarReserve in Arizona with up to twelve hours of molten salt storage;
  • The Midland Solar Project photovoltaic power plant to be developed by Boulder Solar Power LLC in Nevada; and
  • The New York Canyon Geothermal Project to be developed by Terra-Gen, LLC, in Nevada.

Asked if her department would continue the accelerated pace of approvals that has seen 45 renewable energy projects get the green light since President Obama took office, newly appointed DOI Secretary Sally Jewell promised, “We won’t get in the way.”

None of the three projects has a finalized power purchase agreement (PPA), without which they are unlikely to be financed.

The approved projects:

The Quartzsite Solar Project, La Paz County, Arizona, on 1,600 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-managed land:

  • Developer: Quartzsite Solar Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of Solar Reserve, LLC
  • Technology: Solar power tower with molten salt storage
  • Nameplate capacity: 100 megawatts (enough clean power to meet the needs of an estimated 30,000 homes)
  • PPA: In discussions with utilities in California and Arizona
  • Jobs: 438 construction jobs (peak) and 47 full-time operations and maintenance jobs.
  • Special features: Dry cooling to decrease water consumption

The Midland Solar Project, 7 miles southwest of Boulder City, Nevada, on private lands and across 76 acres of federal transmission corridor:

  • Developer: Boulder Solar Power, LLC
  • Technology: Solar photovoltaic
  • Nameplate capacity: 350 megawatts (enough electricity to power about 105,000 homes)
  • PPA: Working with utilities
  • Jobs: 350 construction jobs (peak) and 10 full-time operations and maintenance jobs
  • Special features: Worked closely with the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Nevada Department of Wildlife to develop methods such as limited ground disturbance to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts. Less than 6.7 acres of native plant communities, habitat to nesting migratory birds, will be lost. The project will not tap groundwater or interrupt local surface water patterns, but will obtain its water from the existing Boulder City Public Works Department main pipeline.

The New York Canyon Geothermal Project, in Pershing County, 25 miles east of Lovelock, Nevada on 15,135 acres of BLM-managed land.

  • Developer: TGP Dixie Development Company, LLC, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen Power, LLC
  • Technology: Geothermal
  • Nameplate capacity: 70 megawatts (enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes)
  • PPA: No
  • Jobs: 150 construction jobs (peak) and 16 full-time operations and maintenance jobs
  • Special features: DOI also approved a 230-kilovolt distribution line to deliver the project’s production to the Nevada transmission system. As assessment showed the project as no threat to listed, proposed or candidate threatened or endangered species.

All the developers have agreed to do significant mitigation to minimize impacts to wildlife, water, historical, cultural and other resources.

The 45 projects so far approved by the Obama DOI for public lands include 25 utility-scale solar power plants, nine wind installations, and eleven geothermal projects. Their nameplate capacity will be over 12,500 megawatts, enough electricity to power more than 4.4 million homes.

Necessary transmission and distribution corridors and infrastructure for the 45 projects were also approved. The projects are expected to provide an estimated 17,000 construction and permanent jobs. 

The BLM has another fifteen projects currently under consideration.