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Biden administration approves three big solar farms on public land

The US Department of the Interior announced on Tuesday that it has approved two solar farms, with a third nearing final approval, on public lands.

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The three solar projects combined will generate around one gigawatt of power.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the Arica and Victory Pass solar farms on federal land in Riverside County east of Los Angeles. They will generate a total of up to 465 megawatts (MW) of electricity and include up to 400 MW of battery storage. The Department of the Interior writes:

Together, these renewable energy projects will result in an estimated combined infrastructure investment of $689 million, $5.9 million in annual operational economic benefit and power approximately 132,000 homes. 

The BLM expects to imminently approve the third solar farm, the 500 MW Oberon, on 2,700 acres of public lands, which will be capable of powering nearly 142,000 homes. It will also be in Riverside County.

The three solar farms are the first projects approved under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) in the desert regions of seven California counties. 

The Department of the Interior’s website explains what the DRECP is:

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. 

The DRECP is focusing on 10.8 million acres of public lands in desert regions of seven California counties.

The BLM also announced this week that it’s soliciting interest for utility-scale solar development on nearly 90,000 acres of public land in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement:

Investing in clean and reliable renewable energy represents the BLM’s commitment for addressing climate change and supports Congress’ direction in the Energy Act of 2020 to permit 25 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal production on public lands no later than 2025.

Electrek’s Take

The Biden administration’s push to put renewables such as solar, wind, and geothermal on federal land is going to boost clean energy advancement. It allows large solar and wind farms to sidestep NIMBYism and zoning laws.

With the Build Back Better bill currently in limbo, thanks to fossil-fuel-money beholden senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), this is a productive way for the federal government to keep moving toward the goal of eliminating fossil-fuel emissions in the electricity sector by 2035.

Read more: Biden just made more big announcements on energy and climate

Photo: “Solar on Palm Desert Walmart” by Walmart Corporate is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.