Obama: seven utility-scale wind energy and solar projects to be expedited in the US – 3GW wind plan in the mix

Totaling nearly 5GW in all, the utility-scale projects to benefit from a speedy planning consent process span Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming and will generate enough electricity to power approximately 1.5mn homes. Additional expedited infrastructure projects “will be announced in the coming weeks”, a White House statement said.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to expand domestic energy production and strengthen the economy, we are working to advance smart development of renewable energy on our public lands,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “These seven proposed solar and wind projects have great potential to grow our nation’s energy independence, drive job creation, and power economies across the west.”

Two of the projects are wind farms with a combined capacity of just over 3.4GW. In the first instance, federal permit and review decisions are now to be completed by January 2013 for BP Wind’s 425MW Mohave Wind Energy in Arizona. For the mega 3GW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project in Carbon County, Wyoming (WY), the aim is for final permitting decisions to be made by October 2014. A land use plan decision is anticipated in October 2012, followed by review of a series of right-of-way applications through 2014. Proposed by Power Company of WY, it is the largest proposed wind farm in North America. If approved, it could generate enough electricity to power over one million homes. Coming hot on the heels of news that the Production Tax Credit could be extended, Obama’s announcement today is another major boost to the US wind industry.

The remaining projects to be expedited all involve solar technology. Decisions on two photovoltaic (PV) projects, both planned for Riverside County, California, are due by the end of this year: NextEra’s 750MW McCoy PV array and enXco’s 150MW Desert Harvest project. Meantime, a decision deadline of March 2013 has been set for First Solar’s 350MW Silver State South solar energy generation plant in Nevada.

Two concentrated solar power (CSP) projects complete the line up. Decisions will be finalised in December for Solar Reserve’s 100MW Quartzsite CSP proposal for Arizona, while RES Americas will have to wait until next year for decisions on its 200MW Moapa Solar Energy Center plan.

A deadline of December 2013 has been set for federal decisions relating to the project, which is being developed in cooperation with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians on a 2000 acre site on the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Nevada. If approved, the project would employ 100MW of PV technology and 100MW of CSP technology. Once constructed, it would be one of the first large-scale solar projects on tribal lands in the US.

The projects announced build on the Obama Administration’s record of success in permitting an unprecedented number of utility-scale renewable energy projects, the White House statement said. In the past three years, the Department of the Interior has approved 31 new projects. That’s “more utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands than in the past two decades combined,” it noted.