Chevron Energy Solutions’ proposed 45-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) plant on 516 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) moved one step closer to being build after clearing its final environmental review by BLM. The solar complex is expected to generate enough electricity to supply 20,000 California homes with power.
The Lucerne Valley Solar Project is located on unincorporated land in the Mojave Desert, near Lucerne Valley in San Bernardino County, Calif. The California Energy Commission estimates that as many as 160,000 acres of desert lands in California are needed to meet its 33 percent renewable energy goal by 2020.
The Lucerne project is one of BLM’s “fast-track projects” that demonstrate that they have made sufficient progress to formally start the environmental review and public participation process.
BLM says these projects are advanced enough in the permitting process that they could potentially be cleared for approval by December 2010, making them eligible for economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Nine other solar projects in California as well as five in Nevada are participating in the fast-track program.
The Lucerne project has the support of several conservation groups — including the Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society — because it demonstrates that large-scale energy projects can be planned to protect plants, wildlife and other desert resources, says the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The Lucerne Valley Solar Project is a great example of a project that’s smart from the start,” said Johanna Wald, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need clean energy, but we also need to protect our diverse wildlife, unique wildlands, and dwindling water supplies. The Lucerne Valley Project achieves the balance between meeting our clean energy needs and protecting our sensitive public lands ecosystem.”
Other reasons for the support include Lucerne Valley’s high solar potential, and because it’s close to existing roads, infrastructure and transmission lines. It also avoids sensitive areas that have been identified as critical for wildlife and vital natural resources.