Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Monday that the department has approved a large concentrating solar power plant in western Arizona, as well as two other projects on federal land in Nevada.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Monday that the department has approved a large concentrated solar power plant in western Arizona, as well as two other projects on federal land in Nevada.
The Quartszite Solar Energy Project in La Paz County, about 10 miles north of Quartszite, would occupy about 1,675 acres of federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The Quartszite plant would be capable of generating 100 megawatts of electricity, which would be enough electricity for about 25,000 homes while the plant is running. It would incorporate technology to store heat and generate electricity when clouds pass or after sunset.
The other two projects announced Monday are the 350-megawatt Midland Solar Energy Project proposed by Boulder Solar Power and the 70-megawatt New York Canyon Geothermal Project in Nevada proposed by Terra-Gen Power. “These projects are helping power our nation, strengthen our economy and diversify our energy portfolio,” Jewell said during a conference call with reporters. President Barack Obama announced in August that the Quartszite project was being put on a fast track for approval. Since 2009 Interior has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, 9 wind farms and 11 geothermal plants. Another 15 renewable-energy projects are under review.
SolarReserve LLC of Santa Monica, Calif. still is searching for a utility to buy the electricity from the proposed Quartszite project. It is uncommon for a renewable-energy power plant to get built without such a deal in place, and Quartszite will not break ground until SolarReserve strikes such a deal. “We are marketing to utilities in California and Arizona,” said Andrew Wang, SolarReserve’s director of development. SolarReserve’s technology uses thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight to the top of a 640-foot tower, where the heat is captured. The heat is used to make steam, spin turbines and generate electricity. SolarReserve is building one of its plants in Nevada, and it should be complete early next year, Wang said. The electricity will supply the utility that serves the Las Vegas area, Nevada Power Co.
The company should also break ground next year on a plant in California that has a purchase agreement with a California utility, Wang said. SolarReserve also hopes to build one of its towers near Gila Bend, but without new transmission lines to California, the company likely would have to sell the power into Arizona, where utilities already have largely met their renewable-energy requirements.
Constructing the Quartszite CSP plant would create about 430 jobs; once it’s built and is operational, the plant would employ about 50 people, according to the company. The plant would use a dry-cooling technology, using much less water than traditional wet cooling used by power plants. “BLM is thrilled to see these projects moving forward,” Bureau of Land Management Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze said. The BLM charges leases for solar facilities based on a formula that takes into account the acreage and power capacity.
“There is an incentive to keep the projects on the smallest footprint possible,” Kornze said. He said the rates were designed to capture the fair market value of the land. Based on the acreage needed and size of the Quartszite solar plant, it would pay about $894,000 a year in leases once the plant is operating, all of which goes to the federal treasury, BLM spokesman Dennis Godfrey said. Wang said there is no discount for using federal land rather than private. “We are finding in many cases lately the BLM rates and private land rates are comparable,” Wang said.