|Salazar ceremoniously flips the 'smart' solar switch|
|Written by Wild Nevada|
|Monday, 07 May 2012 13:55|
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Nevada today to flip the switch on Nevada’ original “fast-tracked,” utility-scale solar power project – a 50 megawatt photovoltaic plant in the Ivanpah Valley.
The Silver State North project, which will sell its generated juice to NV Energy, is the first of what Salazar hopes will be many renewable energy projects built on public land.
“Today is a landmark for America, a landmark for the solar industry and a landmark for how we use our public lands,” Salazar said in a speech dedicating the project. “We are making believers out of skeptics. A lot of people would have said three years ago that this day would never come.”
OK, so this is a big deal, at least symbolically. Salazar’s shelf of the Cabinet has approved 29 wind, solar and geothermal projects on public land since 2009. The Interior Department has also designated key Solar Energy Zones in the West that will help ensure future solar plants don’t threaten sensitive wildlife habitat or infringe on proposed or protected Wilderness and Conservation Areas. We call projects like that “smart from the start.”
In the case of Silver State North, we dubbed this 600-acre project 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas “smart” because the developer was willing to gather environmental input early on to avoid complications during the formal review process. From where we sat at the review table, that was a good sign.
Project developer Solar One Inc. agreed to deal with issues related to the desert tortoise. The desert tortoise is an ancient reptile that dwells in the creosote bush bottomlands of the Ivanpah Valley where this project was placed. With mitigation for desert tortoise during the construction phase, and with scientific monitoring of the tortoise population after construction, this site represents an opportunity to learn how well the desert tortoise can manage living in the vicinity of a utility-scale solar project.
The Silver State North project is owned by Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest oil-pipeline company, and generates enough electricity for about 9,000 homes, according to a statement today. The next phase of solar development in the valley will be the construction of the much larger Silver State South Solar Project.
A supplemental EIS for the 13,043 acres of affected land is under development and is expected to be available for public review toward the end of 2012. Initial scoping meetings were held in September 2011 that prompted substantial changes by the developer to address desert tortoise movement connectivity – the spatial requirement necessary to assure that populations will not be cut off from one another – and to promote stability of the large alluvial bajada that flows out of the nearby Lucy Gray Mountains. This landscape feature is an important ecological feature of the Mojave Desert and typically harbors the richest biodiversity within the biome.
This EIS will address the much larger Silver State South Solar Project that expects to produce 350 megawatts of electricity, of which Southern California Edison has secured a 250-megawatt, long-term PPA. The developer has not yet committed its sale of the remaining 100 megawatts of capacity.
NWP will continue to be present as Silver State South Solar Project and additional renewable energy projects are contemplated in Nevada.