Ivanpah is first-ever solar project to break ground on public lands
IVANPAH, CA – As part of the Obama Administration's initiative to encourage the rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on U.S. public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today celebrated the groundbreaking of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, an innovative "power tower" project in San Bernardino County, California.
Along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and representatives from BrightSource Energy, the developer, and the Department of Energy, Secretary Salazar lauded the cooperation that launched the thermal solar technology project that will generate 1,000 construction jobs and provide 370 megawatts of clean, renewable energy for up to 277,500 homes.
“Ivanpah is an outstanding example of the progress we are making in building a renewable energy economy,” Salazar said at the groundbreaking. “With private sector initiative and government coordination and encouragement, we are helping to meet the President's goals for stimulating local economies, creating new jobs for American workers, reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy independence and strengthening our national security."
Ivanpah is one of six large-scale solar energy projects the Secretary has approved this month as part of the Department's ongoing commitment to the production of renewable energy on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Combined, the six projects would produce 2,837 megawatts of energy, enough to power 851,500 to 2.1 million homes, as well as create 3,700 new construction jobs and more than six hundred permanent plant operations positions.
Located in Southern California's Mojave Desert, Ivanpah is the first of these projects to break ground. The others include the Imperial Valley Solar Project (Tessera Solar); Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project (Chevron Energy Solutions); Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada (First Solar); Calico Solar Project (Tessera Solar); and the Blythe Solar Power Project (Palo Verde Solar I).
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, renewable energy companies can be awarded loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy for their public land projects. For Ivanpah, BrightSource has received a conditional loan guarantee for $1.37 billion from the Department of Energy.
The solar projects employ a variety of innovative solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Ivanpah, for example, will include three solar thermal power units that use 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.
All of the projects underwent extensive environmental review, starting with public scoping, followed by a draft environment impact statement (EIS) with full public involvement, culminating in final EIS and Record of Decision. As part of this process, when warranted, BLM can require significant changes in proposed projects to minimize environmental impacts. For Ivanpah, 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.
BrightSource also was required to 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.
Four of the six solar projects announced this month were 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 Ivanpah project on September 22, 2010.