A new initiative from the Department of the Interior is poised to set up two solar farms – with a third nearing final approval – on public lands.
The solar projects would be set up in the California desert in the southern region of the state – just east of Los Angeles. The two approved farms will generate a total of up to 465 megawatts and include up to 400 megawatts of battery storage. The D.O.I. says the project will result in an estimated infrastructure investment of $689 million as well as $5.9 million in annual operational economic benefit. It will power about 132,000 homes.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is also expected to approve a third solar farm on public land in the same area that will produce about 500 megawatts and power nearly 142,000 homes.
“The efficient deployment of renewable energy projects will create good-paying jobs and are crucial in achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035,” Tracy Stone-Manning, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, said in a statement.
These three solar farms are the first projects approved under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan – also known as the DRECP – in the desert region of seven California counties. The DRECP is focusing on 10.8 million acres of public land.
“The DRECP is a collaborative effort between the [Bureau of Land Management], Fish and Wildlife Service, California Energy Commission, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. To approve these sites for renewable energy projects, the Department and the BLM work with Tribal governments, local communities, state regulators, industry, and other federal agencies,” according to the Department of the Interior’s website.
The solar farm approval is significant because it represents one of a very limited number of policy tools available to the Biden administration as it works to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels. It’s in an effort to slash the country’s greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half by 2035.
These plans come after West Virginia Senator and coal industry supporter Joe Manchin said he would not back broader climate action, which led to the Build Back Better program stalling in Congress.
BBB is one of Biden’s signature plans, and it includes $555 billion in clean energy tax credits. With it stalling, the President is turning to executive actions to move his agency forward.
Furthering this plan for expanded solar energy, the BLM also said it is looking to develop nearly 90,000 more acres of public land in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.