Salazar Approves First "Power Tower" Solar Project on U.S. Public Lands

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today approved the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the first large-scale solar energy project on U.S. public lands to use "power tower" technology. Proposed by BrightSource Energy of Oakland, California, the project could produce up to 370 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power 111,000 to 277,500 American homes. Located in San Bernardino County, California, the project is expected to generate approximately 1,100 new jobs.

“Ivanpah is one of several renewable energy projects in the pipeline that will help California and this nation build a clean energy economy,” Secretary Salazar said in signing the Record of Decision. “With this project, we are making great strides toward meeting the President's goals for creating new jobs for American workers, reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy independence and strengthening our national security."

Ivanpah joins a host of landmark announcements from Interior this week as part of the Administration's effort to encourage a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands. On October 5, Salazar approved the first two solar energy projects ever to be built on public lands. Combined with Ivanpah, the three solar projects could generate 1,124 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power 337,000 to 843,000 homes. On October 6, Salazar signed a lease agreement with Cape Wind Associates LLC for a 130-turbine offshore wind farm that could generate up to 468 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity for Nantucket Sound communities. It is the nation's first lease for commercial wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The Secretary's decision today authorizes Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer BrightSource a right-of-way grant to use these public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met. The site is in Southern California's Mojave Desert, near the Primm, Nevada border.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, renewable energy developers whose projects begin construction by the end of 2010 can apply for payments of up to 30 percent of the eligible costs of the project. Also under the Recovery Act, BrightSource has been awarded $1.37 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy for this project.

The Ivanpah project uses innovative technology that, when completed, will include three solar thermal power plants. The technology uses mirror fields to focus solar energy on power tower receivers near the center of each array. Steam from solar boilers in the towers drive a turbine which generates electricity for the transmission grid. Construction of all three phases is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

The project has undergone extensive environmental review, starting with public scoping in November 2007, followed by a draft environment impact statement (EIS) and full public involvement in November 2009, and a supplemental draft EIS in April 2010. A final EIS was issued in August 2010. Salazar noted that BLM significantly altered the BrightSource proposal in response to public comments in order to minimize environmental impacts. BLM reduced the size of the project by 15 percent, from 4,073 acres down to 3,471 acres and the number of heliostats (solar mirrors) from 214,000 to 173,500.

The company must also compensate for impacts to wildlife, water, and other resources through an innovative joint compensation fund created by Federal and State agencies and operated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. To satisfy federal and state requirements, BrightSource will acquire more than 7,300 mitigation acres. Pursuant to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved plan, Desert Tortoise onsite will be tested for disease, translocated to suitable, comparable habitat and monitored. As part of BLM's ongoing Desert Tortoise conservation plan, BLM has already set aside more than 3 million acres of habitat in California.

“I am pleased with the changes we have made to improve this project,” Salazar said. “It is important that we learn from our experience to ensure that environmentally-responsible clean energy is developed wisely and in the right places.”

Ivanpah is one of the projects jointly processed through the BLM and the California Energy Commission (CEC) cooperative model established by an October 12, 2009 agreement between Secretary Salazar and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The agreement directed Interior and State agencies to create an initiative to advance development of environmentally appropriate renewable energy on U.S. lands in California. The CEC approved the project on September 22, 2010.

A fact sheet on the project is available HERE. A map of the site is HERE.


Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment