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August 17, 2011

Interior Department OKs 550 Megawatt Solar Project in California

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved on August 10 the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, a 550-megawatt (MW) solar power project to be built in the California desert east of Palm Springs. Desert Sunlight, the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) facility approved for U.S. public land, will generate enough energy to power more than 165,000 homes. It is located on approximately 4,100 acres. The facility will create more than 630 jobs at peak construction. In June, DOE granted Desert Sunlight project operators a conditional commitment of a $1.88 billion loan guarantee.

The project will be operated by a subsidiary of First Solar Inc., and it will use First Solar's thin-film PV technology. An on-site substation and a 230-kilovolt generation tie line will connect the project eventually with Southern California Edison's regional grid. The Desert Sunlight project underwent extensive environmental review and mitigation. DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) worked with First Solar, the National Park Service, and other stakeholders to significantly reduce the proposed project's total footprint from 19,000 acres to 4,144 acres. In addition, the BLM is requiring that First Solar provide funding for acquiring and enhancing more than 7,500 acres of suitable habitat for desert tortoise and other sensitive wildlife species to help mitigate the project's potential impacts. See the DOI press release and the project fact sheetPDF.

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