Interior Department OKs Two Major Renewable Projects

January 04, 2012

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on December 20 the approval of two utility-scale renewable energy projects, including the first renewable project on public lands in Arizona and a solar energy project in California. Combined, the two projects will generate nearly 500 megawatts (MW), enough to power 150,000 homes, and create 700 jobs during peak construction. Also, DOI announced the first major step in developing an offshore wind transmission line on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

DOI approved the Sonoran Solar Energy Project, proposed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, making it the first-ever renewable energy project approved for construction on public lands in Arizona in the desert southwest of Phoenix. The project's photovoltaic (PV) panels are expected to generate 300 megawatts, and the project will create 374 jobs through construction, operation, and maintenance. Also approved was the Tule Wind Power Project, located 70 miles east of San Diego, which will produce 186 megawatts of electricity via 62 wind turbines sited on public lands, or enough to power up to 65,000 homes. Proposed by a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, the project is expected to create 337 jobs.

DOI also took the next step toward developing a Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Transmission Line. Atlantic Grid Holdings, LLC has requested a right-of-way grant to develop a high-voltage direct-current line that would collect power generated by wind turbine facilities off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. With the new line, up to 7,000 MW of wind turbine capacity could be delivered to the grid. DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opened a public comment period on the potential environmental effects of the proposed project. The agency is also asking whether other developers are interested in constructing transmission facilities in this area in order to determine whether there is overlapping competitive interest. See the DOI press release, a DOI fact sheet on onshore renewable energyPDF, and a fact sheet on offshore renewable energyPDF.