HINKLEY, Calif – Visiting the world's largest solar power plant, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today called the NextEra Harper Lake solar electric generating system a prime example of the future of renewable energy production for the nation.
“I cannot think of a more appropriate place to underscore that renewable energy is not ‘pie in the sky' than here at the edge of the Mojave Desert where the largest solar plant in the world is generating clean, cost-efficient renewable energy for California communities,” Salazar said during a tour of the facility.
“This is the future we are working to achieve – visionary investment in cutting-edge technology; good, solid jobs for American workers; clean energy for American homes, businesses and industry; and renewable resources used efficiently and effectively for the betterment of communities, California and the nation,” Salazar said.
“Our bold and innovative vision for California has made us a pioneer in renewable energy, green jobs and environmental protection and, as a result, we are seeing an energy revolution in California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “California has more than 240 proposed renewable energy projects looking to build and create jobs. Today's action will help speed the process for some of these large initiatives to break ground this year and qualify for federal stimulus funding. By working together, we can increase renewable energy development, create thousands of jobs and preserve our state's cherished natural resources.”
NextEra, the largest solar generator in the world, co-owns and operates two solar thermal projects in California – Harper Lake and Kramer Junction – as well as 15 wind farms. The Harper Lake plant, which has been in operation for more than two decades and generates 160 gross megawatts of power, sells electricity to California's electric utility companies, which are required to use renewable energy to produce 20 percent of their power by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. NextEra has invested $1.5 billion in power generation assets in California, about $1 billion of that in solar and wind projects.
Salazar, noting the Administration's priority on diversifying the nation's energy portfolio to include renewable energy, said Interior is spurring solar, wind, and geothermal energy development on federal lands in California and around the West as well as on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. “We are cutting bureaucratic red tape; creating strategies to expedite development; prioritizing public lands best suited for renewable energy; and spurring investment with stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” the Secretary emphasized.
Salazar said there are 9 fast track solar projects and 3 fast track wind projects being reviewed for Interior Bureau of Land Management areas in California. The nine solar projects on fast-track review would be capable of producing more than 4,500 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of more than a million homes and provide tens of thousands of jobs.
The Secretary has established Renewable Energy Coordination Offices, including two in California, to help swiftly complete reviews on the most ready-to-go solar, wind and geothermal projects on U.S. public lands. These offices, which work closely with state agencies and private developers to ensure timely review of applications, are processing 53 solar applications covering 445,000 acres and 90 wind applications (71 for testing and 19 for development) covering 876,000 acres.
Interior also has set aside 1,000 square miles of public lands in 24 “Solar Energy Study Areas” around the West (four in California cover 530 square miles) that are being evaluated for environmentally appropriate solar energy development. The Department has invested $41 million from the President's economic recovery plan to facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands.
Salazar noted that Interior's collaboration with California reflects these priorities and initiatives, citing a Memorandum of Understanding he signed with Gov. Schwarzenegger in October to expedite and prioritize renewable energy permitting. In addition to longer-term planning efforts, State and federal agencies are working cooperatively to review an initial set of renewable energy applications that, if approvable, could be permitted in time to meet the deadlines for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.
The tour also visited the proposed Abengoa Mojave Solar project outside Hinkley, which Salazar said highlights federal-state partnership to more efficiently and effectively site and permit renewable energy on private land. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with state and other federal agencies on permit reviews under the National Environmental Protection Act. The project, located on private land, is expected to be in operation by 2013 and will provide 1,200 construction jobs in the short term and 80 permanent jobs long term while producing 250 megawatts of power.