As part of President Obama's all-of-the-above approach to energy, today Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar "flipped the switch" on the Enbridge Silver State North solar project, the first large-scale solar energy facility on U.S. public lands to deliver power to American consumers.
This milestone is in line with the administration's broad commitment to expanding production of all sources of American made energy, including from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, which has doubled in the President's first term, as well as domestic production of oil and gas resources, which have increased each year the President has been in office.
"This is a landmark day for solar energy and for the nation," Salazar said at the dedication ceremony with state and company officials. "Silver State North was the first solar project we approved on public lands in Nevada and --18 months later -- the first of our priority projects to provide clean energy to the power grid. This is a model of industry and government working together to strengthen local economies, generating good jobs and affordable, reliable and sustainable power."
The Interior Department has undertaken an unprecedented approach to permitting renewable energy on public lands. Prior to 2009, there were no solar energy projects permitted on public lands. Under Secretary Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey's leadership, Interior has authorized 29 large-scale renewable energy projects on or involving public lands, including 16 solar facilities, 5 wind farms, and 8 geothermal plants. When completed, these projects will provide more than 6,500 megawatts of power to communities across the West, enough to power more than 2 million homes.
"Public lands provide Americans with vital mineral and agricultural resources, as well as recreational opportunities that help power local economies and generate jobs around the nation," said Bob Abbey, Director of the Bureau of Land Management. "Today in Clark County, Nevada, we are adding solar energy to that public lands' portfolio of benefits. This project symbolizes a new partnership between government and industry that can responsibly tap the immense renewable energy resources of this great state, provide clean, reliable power to homes and businesses, and open a new chapter in the beneficial use of our nation's public lands."
Located 40 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada, Silver State North is a 50-megawatt plant that will use photovoltaic technology to generate enough power for about 9,000 Nevada homes. Developed by First Solar and owned by Enbridge, the project employed more than 380 construction workers during peak construction and 650 individuals over the course of the project. NV Energy has a power purchase agreement to sell the solar project's electricity to the Nevada market.
By harnessing the area's vast solar resources, the Silver State North facility generates electricity with no air emissions, no waste production, and no water use. The plant, using technology with the smallest carbon footprint of any PV solar system, displaces about 42,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually -- the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars off the road. The project site is strategically located near a major transmission hub.
Constructed on 618 acres of public land managed by Interior's Bureau of Land Management, the solar project underwent full environmental analysis and public review. The BLM worked closely with federal, state and local partners, members of the environmental and conservation community, and interested stakeholders to protect wildlife and advance this environmentally sound project. First Solar and the BLM worked in concert with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a relocation/translocation plan for desert tortoises found on the site. The BLM also required a natural color palette for painted structures and controlled night lighting, designed to reduce visual impacts on the local community.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees more than 2.5 million acres in Clark County, Nevada, including over 1.1 million acres managed for conservation. This includes over 709,000 acres of habitat the BLM has designated primarily for the conservation of the threatened desert tortoise.