The United States Interior Department approved four new renewable energy projects, which includes a solar power generation plant proposed by Abengoa SA and the Edison International transmission project. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement last Thursday.
The Interior Department gave permits for Abengoa’s proposal to build a 250 megawatt solar thermal power plant in California as well as Edison’s Southern California Edison utility to build 150 miles of high voltage transmission lines that would connect solar farms in the desert to the main southern California power grid. The Abengoa project is built on private property but it needs the approval from the Interior Department so that it could build transmission lines along public land.
The government agency also approved permits for a 200 MW California solar farm to be developed by Tenaska and a 100 MW central Oregon wind farm proposed by West Butte Wind Power. The four projects would create 1,300 construction jobs and would generate 500 MW of renewable energy once they are completed. That would be enough to power 185,000 to 380,000 homes. The project owners will pay millions of dollars per year in local government tax revenues.
It looks like the Abengoa solar power plant project will be pushing through as scheduled. The Spai-based company was granted a construction permit for the proposed solar farm by California regulators last year. Last month, the U. S. Department of Energy offered the company a $1.2 billion conditional loan guarantee for the said project. Last December, The United States government gave Abengoa a $1.45 billion loan and loan guarantee to construct a 250 MW solar-thermal power generation plant in Arizona.
Interior Secretary Salazar said that his department plans to issue a formal plan for a program that would simplify the permitting process of solar farms proposed for public lands in the Southwest. Its plan is called Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement or PEIS. This would allow the Interior Department to complete a wide-range environmental review of the desert lands that are suited for solar farms. That way, it could streamline the approval for such structures.
Salazar said that his agency is already reviewing the public comments on the plan, which include opinions of residents near areas that are proposed for solar zones. There are people who oppose the inclusion of some areas and the Interior Department said it would modify the plan. It would take some time before the final proposal will be released.