Published on May 8th, 2012 | by Susan Kraemer16
First Solar is the First Solar Inaugurated on Public Lands
The first solar plant of a 6.5 GW boom in Obama-era projects approved on public lands land was just inaugurated today.
Silver State North began generating electricity to the Nevada grid a mere year and a half after getting its initial approval by the Department of the Interior in 2010 and going on to successfully hurdle the following environmental reviews and get final approvals.
Silver State was the first of 28 other large-scale renewable energy projects approved by the Obama administration on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a boom for renewable energy not seen before in the U.S. More than 98% of all leases supplied by the BLM before 2009 were for oil and gas drilling, not renewables.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar attended the ceremony in Primm, Nevada, to inaugurate Silver State North.
“This is a landmark day for solar energy and for the nation,” Salazar says. “Silver State North was the first solar project we approved on public lands in Nevada and –18 months later — the first of our priority projects to provide clean energy to the power grid. This is a model of industry and government working together to strengthen local economies, generating good jobs and affordable, reliable and sustainable power.”
The Silver State North project is sited 40 miles south of Las Vegas, in the Ivanpah region, where it has a 25 year energy contract to supply power for NV Energy. The 50 MW project was the first of three phases of a project approved for First Solar. A much larger 350 MW Silver State South, to be built in two more phases was to have supplied the California grid, but may not make it.
The 50 MW thin-film solar project was developed by First Solar, but sold to Enbridge in March. When PV prices dropped it squeezed the solar companies such as First Solar or Solyndra that innovated alternatives to traditional PV that were (initially) cheaper.
Thin film is less efficient than traditional crystalline PV; which means it takes more space to make the same power. It uses 618 acres of desert land owned by the BLM, in a desert tortoise-rich region currently abused by Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) users, who were among those who had weighed in on the proposed project.