The Department of Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a proposal to construct and operate the largest solar power project in US history. The Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for Solar Partners XI, LLC to construct a 690MW photovoltaic solar electric generating facility and ancillary facilities about 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The estimated US $1bn Gemini Solar Project could be the eighth-largest solar power facility in the world when finished and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 260,000 homes in the Las Vegas area and potential energy markets in Southern California.
According to Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), despite the challenges of the coronavirus, they pleased to see that Nevada will soon be home to one of the biggest solar projects in the world. “The solar industry is resilient and a project like this one will bring jobs and private investment to the state when we need it most. We appreciate the work that the federal government has done to make this historic project a reality,” she said.
The on-site construction workforce is anticipated to average 500 to 700 construction workers, with a peak of up to 900 workers at any given time, supporting up to an additional 1,100 jobs in the local community and injecting an estimated US $712.5m into the economy in wages and total output during construction.
The Project is expected to be constructed in two phases. The first phase of power could come on-line in 2021 with final completion as early as 2022. Federal revenues are expected to be more than US $3m annually to the U.S. Treasury.
Environmental benefits and impact mitigation
The Project is expected to generate renewable electricity that would annually offset greenhouse emissions of about 83,000 cars (384,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). The hybrid alternative specified in the ROD also includes a mowing method that will result in fewer impacts on native vegetation and wildlife, such as the desert tortoise. Extensive long-term monitoring will be required, in addition to possible adaptation of methods used to reduce potential impacts to desert tortoise.
The BLM and Solar Partners XI, LLC also developed measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to other resources including, but not limited to, visual resources, cultural and tribal resources, recreation access and air quality.