Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department has approved permits supporting Abengoa’s plans to build a 250-megawatt solar-thermal power plant in the California desert.
The U.S. Interior Department has issued permits for four new renewable-energy projects, including a solar-power plant proposed by Abengoa SA and a transmission project planned by Edison International.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department has approved permits supporting Abengoa’s plans to build a 250-megawatt solar-thermal power plant in the California desert and plans by Edison’s Southern California Edison utility to build 150 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that would connect desert solar farms to the southern California grid.
The agency also approved permits for two other renewable energy projects: a 200 MW California solar farm being developed by privately held Tenaska, and a 100 MW central Oregon wind farm planned by West Butte Wind Power LLC. Abengoa’s solar farm and the wind farm will be built on private land, but the projects needed permission to build transmission lines that would cross public land.
Together, the projects are estimated to create more than 1,300 construction jobs and generate 550 MW of renewable power, enough to serve 185,000 to 380,000 homes, the Interior Department said. The project owners will also pay millions of dollars a year in local government tax revenues, the agency said.
California regulators last year granted Spain-based Abengoa a construction permit for the solar farm, planned for San Bernardino County. The U.S. Department of Energy last month offered Abengoa a $1.2 billion conditional loan guarantee for that project.
In December, the U.S. government awarded Abengoa a $1.45 billion loan and a loan guarantee to build a 250 MW solar-thermal power plant in Arizona.
Salazar said his department also plans to issue a formal plan for a program that would streamline permitting of solar farms proposed for public lands in the Southwest. The plan, called the solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, or PEIS, would allow the agency to complete a broad environmental review of desert lands suitable for solar farms, so that it could fast-track approval for such facilities.
"It will provide certainty to companies that want to invest in solar projects on public lands," Salazar said, speaking with reporters by telephone.
Salazar said his department was reviewing public comments on the plan, including from some residents near areas proposed for "solar zones" identified in a draft version of the plan who oppose inclusion of those areas, and that the agency would modify the plan.