DOI: Solar Project Caps Strong Year for Public Lands Renewables

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This week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the release of the final environmental impact statement for the McCoy Solar Energy Project in Riverside County, Calif. According to the Department of the Interior, the project -- which would be one of the largest solar energy projects on public lands in the California desert -- caps a strong year for renewable energy development on public lands. Here are the details.

* The proposed McCoy Solar Energy Project is a 750-megawatt facility. It is believed that the power generated there could produce enough electricity to power 225,000 homes.

* The facility would be developed on around 4,400 acres of mostly public lands near Blythe, Calif., managed by the Bureau of Land Management. A 14.5-mile generation tie-in line and two-acre switch yard will connect it with Southern California Edison's Colorado River Substation.

* McCoy Solar, LLC, the project developer, has estimated that the project will employ 600 workers during peak construction, the Department of the Interior reported.

* According to the Department of the Interior, this project -- if approved -- will join 34 other renewable energy projects that the Obama administration has permitted on public lands since 2009.

* With the potential to produce approximately 10,400 megawatts of energy, the projects exceed President Obama's goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of utility-scale renewable energy on public lands by 2013, the Department of the Interior reported.

* The McCoy project comes in a year where, in October, a program was finalized that would provide solar energy zones in order to spur the development of solar energy on public lands in six states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

* The initial set of 17 solar energy zones will serve as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development on about 285,000 acres of public lands. These designated areas could produce as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy -- enough to power about 7 million homes -- the Department of the Interior stated.

* This year, the Department of the Interior also approved the first commercial solar energy project on American Indian tribal trust lands. The Moapa Band of Paiute Indian trust land, in Clark County, Nev., will be the site of a 2,000-acre, three-phase project that will generate lease income for the tribe and create new jobs for tribal members.

* This year also marked the first large-scale solar energy facility on U.S. public lands to deliver power to consumers, with the Enbridge Silver State North solar project in Nevada. The project was the first one approved on public lands in Nevada and took about 18 months to come online, the department reported.

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