Sonoran Solar

Sonoran Solar project site
Photo by BLM
An application to develop the Sonoran Solar site was approved west of Phoenix, Arizona in December 2011. If constructed, the project will produce 300 megawatts of solar energy.

Proposed by NextEra Energy Resources, the Sonoran Solar project would produce enough energy to power 90,000 homes if constructed. The Wilderness Society worked to improve the proposal through the permitting process, and supported BLM’s approval because it limited impacts and will produce renewable energy.

Limiting impacts to wild lands and wildlife habitat

Sonoran Solar was proposed for 2,013 acres of BLM land in an area that has limited habitat diversity and will not impact wilderness quality lands. During the permitting process, the developer changed the project footprint to avoid sensitive desert washes. 

The project site is also adjacent to an existing 500 kV transmission line and near an existing electrical substation, which will further reduce impacts by decreasing the amount of additional construction needed to support the project. 

Producing clean solar energy

If constructed, Sonoran Solar will produce up to 300 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power 90,000 homes. The project is proposed to use photovoltaic panels to create electricity. The use of photovoltaic panels for the project will also limit water use, as water is only required for washing the panels.

Engaging with the BLM and the project developer

The Wilderness Society was actively involved in the permitting process for Sonoran Solar. Working with our conservation partners, the BLM and the project developer, we closely reviewed the proposed project to ensure impacts would be minimized. Improvements to the proposal during the permitting process included a change in the project footprint to avoid sensitive desert washes and a change in technology from “wet-cooled” concentrating solar power technology that requires intensive water use to low-water us photovoltaic technology.

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