California Construction News staff writer
The Department of the Interior has issued final approval for construction of the Arica and Victory Pass solar projects near Desert Center in eastern Riverside County, a significant milestone in the Biden-Harris administration’s plan to modernize America’s power infrastructure in the West and permit at least 25 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal production on public lands by 2025.
“The efficient deployment of renewable energy projects is crucial to lower costs for families, support good paying jobs, and achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035,” said Laura Daniel-Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management. “Combined with the historic investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will continue to work in partnership with states, cities and Tribes to boost climate resiliency, advance clean energy projects, and replace aging infrastructure.”
The Notice to Proceed, issued by the Bureau of Land Management Palm Springs South Coast Field Office, authorizes Clearway Energy Group, LLC to begin full construction of the 265-megawatt Arica Solar Project and 200-megawatt Victory Pass Solar Project. The BLM anticipates construction will begin as early as June 13.
The two renewable energy projects will result in a combined infrastructure investment of about $689 million, generate $5.9 million in annual operational economic benefit, provide power to approximately 132,000 homes, and add up to 465 megawatts of clean energy generating capacity and 400 megawatts of battery storage. Additionally, the projects will create up to 1,000 construction jobs during peak activities.
“Renewable energy development on BLM-managed public lands will continue to help communities across the country be part of the climate solution, while creating jobs and boosting local economies,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “The BLM is committed to making significant contributions to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio and has approved more than 120 renewable energy projects on public land generating more than 12,000 megawatts.”
These are the first projects in areas identified as suitable for renewable energy development in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a landscape-level strategy that streamlines renewable energy development while conserving unique and valuable desert ecosystems and providing outdoor recreation opportunities on 10.8 million acres of public lands in the desert regions of seven California counties. To approve these sites for renewable energy projects, the Department of the Interior and the BLM work with Tribal governments, local communities, state regulators, industry and other federal agencies.
The BLM is currently processing 67 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on public lands in the western United States.
This includes solar, wind and geothermal projects, as well as interconnect gen-tie lines that are vital to clean energy projects proposed on non-federal land. These projects have the combined potential to add over 41,733 megawatts of renewable energy to the western electric grid.
The BLM is also undertaking the preliminary review of 90 applications for solar and wind development, as well as 51 applications for wind and solar energy testing.