First Solar’s 550-MW Desert Project Approved

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently opened up 4,144 acres of public lands in the California desert east of Palm Springs to house the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm. Once completed, the 550-megawatt (MW) solar-photovoltaic plant is expected to produce enough electricity to power more than 165,000 homes.

The solar project will be developed and operated by Desert Sunlight Holdings, a subsidiary of First Solar, which in June received a $1.88 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy for the construction. Backers say the project, about six miles north of the rural community of Desert Center, will generate $336 million for the local economy from indirect benefits, including $197 million in wages. Construction will create 630 jobs at its peak, with 15 operations and maintenance jobs remaining. The project will also generate about $27 million in sales and property tax revenue to Riverside County.\

image via First Solar

The Interior Department said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) worked closely with First Solar, the National Park Service and other stakeholders to reduce the proposed project’s total footprint from its originally planned 19,000 acres. In addition, the BLM is requiring that Desert Sunlight provide funding for acquisition and enhancement of more than 7,500 acres of suitable habitat for desert tortoise and other sensitive wildlife species. The company will fund a plan to minimize potential impacts to Joshua Tree National Park and wilderness areas and will also use state-of-the-art lighting to protect the night sky views.

Desert Sunlight is the 12th solar project to advance since the Department of Interior made renewable energy a priority in March 2009.  This is the third solar project of 2011 for the Department.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.


  • Reply August 23, 2011

    Rockin MK Ranch

    It’s a common ploy among developers to first announce a large project (19,000 acres) and then reduce it (4144 acres) to make it look like they are compromising with whomeveru00a0might oppose the project.u00a0 Another common ploy is to state they will preserve and enhance additional acreage to create a habitat for the species displaced by a project.u00a0 The general public needs educate themselves on how to benefit fromu00a0conservation easements and grant funding that is available for land conservation.u00a0 Do not sell our wild places to industrial development.u00a0 Protect and preserve the publicu00a0lands weu00a0have before they are all gone.u00a0 Why spend more of our tax dollars on trying to recover damaged land when we have the opportunity to protect it now!

  • Reply August 24, 2011

    Nick G

    Are you sure you have the right photo there?u00a0 A builder of photovoltaic plants sent you a photo of a solar thermal plant?

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