Solar Project Gains Support from Conservation Groups Pushing for Clean Energy Production in Nevada

Nov 15, 2010

A large utility-scale solar project on public lands was approved in Nevada, with the support of conservation groups who have been pushing for developments that have the least amount of conflict with wildlife and their habitats. The Southern Nevada District of the Bureau of Land Management signed the Record of Decision (ROD) today for the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Energy Project.

The ROD gives the go-ahead to Solar Millennium, LLC, to begin construction of the project, which will produce 500-megawatts of electricity from two dry-cooled solar power plants equipped with thermal energy storage capability. It is located just west of the town of Amargosa, Nevada, on 4,350 acres of BLM managed land.

“Our demand for energy continues to grow despite everyone’s best efforts to become more efficient with our power usage,” said Alex Daue, Renewable Energy Coordinator for The Wilderness Society. “We recognize that our public lands will play a role in future solar and wind development, so it is critical that we carefully evaluate each one of these projects to ensure that our wild lands and wildlife remain protected while bringing much needed energy online.”

The Nevada Wilderness Project and The Wilderness Society support the BLM’s decision to sign the Record of Decision, recognizing that in order to combat climate change and take dirty fossil-fueled plants offline, renewable energy will have to play a large role in our clean energy economy. The Amargosa project is the eighth “fast-tracked” solar development in the West permitted on public lands in time to qualify for federal stimulus dollars. Both groups have been monitoring the project since the permit application was first filed.

“This project will help Nevada’s utility companies to meet our Renewable Portfolio Standard of 15 percent by 2012. This is enough energy to power over 150,000 homes,” said Greg Seymour, Renewable Energy Coordinator for the Nevada Wilderness Project. “It also fulfills many components of what we call a 'smart from the start' approach to developing renewable energy on public land.”

Seymour said the project will be built on public lands that have no designated critical habitat for federally endangered or threatened species, and on land that is not a major migration corridor for wildlife. The project uses parabolic trough solar thermal technology, which means that after the sun sets, the plant will continue to provide power.

“Early in the planning phase of the project, the developer and the BLM realized that a change in technology from wet to dry cooling was better suited for this site,” said Seymour. “Using appropriate technology, in this case less water-intensive in a desert environment, is essential and part of taking a “smart from the start” approach to developing renewable energy.”

The Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge is seven miles southeast of the project site and not expected to be impacted by the solar development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Refuge, will require payments into a fund that can cover a range of off-site mitigation measures. “Renewable energy projects such as this provide clean reliable energy, jobs, and move us away from reliance on foreign oil,” said Seymour. “While no large development on public lands is without impacts, we think the benefits of this one outweigh the negative impacts to wildlife and habitat.”

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The Nevada Wilderness Project is a nonprofit organization working for wildlife habitat conservation, wilderness preservation, and smart development of renewable energy.

The Wilderness Society is the leading public-lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.

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