As part of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today approved construction of the transmission line for First Solar's Campo Verde Solar energy project, which will cross public lands southwest of El Centro, California.
The 139-megawatt solar energy project is expected to support more than 250 jobs through construction and operations, generate $17.5 million in local tax revenue over the life of the facility, and provide an estimated $239 million of financial benefits to local, county and state economies. At full capacity, when built, the Campo Verde Solar facility will produce enough electricity to power 41,700 homes.
"The Campo Verde Solar project will create jobs and boost the economy while providing clean, domestic energy to local communities," said Salazar. "This cutting-edge facility will supplement our nation's growing demand for electricity as we tap domestic resources that make our nation more energy independent. In fact, since the President took office, renewable energy from sources like wind and solar has doubled."
Electricity from the Campo Verde photovoltaic plant will be transmitted to the San Diego Gas and Electric's Imperial Valley Substation. The Campo Verde facility is located on about 1,443 acres of previously developed, privately-owned land southwest of El Centro, California. Interior, who has authority only over the section of the transmission line on federal lands, approved the right-of-way for 17 acres for the power line on public land, and Imperial County authorized the solar power plant on August 27, 2012. Because the development on private land is related to the federal Right of Way for the transmission line and the transmission line cannot cross public lands without Interior approval, the Environmental Assessment had to consider the cumulative impacts of the generation project in its analysis of the transmission proposal.
Since 2009, as part of the Obama Administration strategy of expanding the use of domestic energy resources, both conventional and renewable, Interior has approved 32 major onshore renewable energy projects involving U.S. public lands. These include 18 utility-scale solar projects, 6 wind farms and 8 geothermal facilities, with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure that will enable them to connect to established power grids.
When built by the companies, these projects will provide about 7,400 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power more than 2.5 million homes and could generate more than 12,000 construction and operations jobs.
As with previously approved renewable energy projects, the Campo Verde project underwent extensive environmental review. The approved project reflects strong efforts
to mitigate potential environmental impacts, such as providing habitat compensation for various species.
"As good stewards of the public lands, we are seeking to support renewable energy development, including development on private lands that have the potential for success
with few resource conflicts," said BLM's Acting Director Mike Pool. "This project, including the siting of a transmission line on public land, reflects our commitment to environmentally responsible solar energy and infrastructure development that is "smart from the start'."
On January 13, 2012, Salazar and Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed an agreement to expand a state and federal partnership that has, over the last two years, paved the way for more than one dozen utility-scale solar energy projects and more than 150 renewable power projects in California.