Interior Department Announces Full Operation of Palen Solar Project in California

Interior Department

The Department of the Interior today announced that the Palen Solar Project, a 457-megawatt photovoltaic facility in Riverside County, California, has reached full power operation. The project – which will supply enough energy to power approximately 116,000 homes and includes 50 megawatts of battery storage – represents another major step forward in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to lower costs for families and create a clean energy, carbon-free future.

“Bringing another solar project to full operation on our public lands will accelerate our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy by unlocking renewable resources, creating jobs, lowering costs, and boosting local economies,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Interior Department will continue to advance the sustainable development of clean energy in order to help meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.”

The Palen Solar Project is in an area analyzed and identified as suitable for renewable energy development as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Land Use Plan Amendment. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a landscape-level plan focused on 10.8 million acres of public lands in the desert regions of seven California counties that streamlines renewable energy development while conserving unique and valuable desert ecosystems and providing outdoor recreation opportunities.

“The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan represents an unprecedented partnership that balances our country’s equally important goals of facilitating renewable energy while ensuring that lands in California’s deserts are set aside for conservation and recreation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis. “As with all the Department’s clean energy projects, the Bureau of Land Management has seen this project through to completion with extensive engagement with Tribal governments, local communities, state regulators, industry and other federal agencies.”

In 2018, EDF Renewable Energy received authorization from the BLM to construct the solar photovoltaic facility and an approximately seven-mile single circuit 230-kilovolt generation interconnection transmission line that would deliver power through the Southern California Edison Red Bluff Substation. The Palen Solar Project was completed in five phases starting in December 2020; in phase one, the project generated 125 megawatts, phase two 100 megawatts, phase three 100 megawatts, phase four 132 megawatts and the final phase 50 megawatt hours of battery storage. Today’s announcement of full power operation means all 457 megawatts and 50 megawatts of battery storage are being generated.

The BLM is currently processing 64 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on public lands in the western United States. This includes solar, wind and geothermal projects, as well as interconnect gen-tie lines that are vital to clean energy projects proposed on non-federal land. These projects have the combined potential to add over 41,000 megawatts of renewable energy to the western electric grid. The BLM is also undertaking the preliminary review of 90 applications for solar and wind development, as well as 51 applications for wind and solar energy testing.

Today’s announcement follows several recent renewable energy and conservation approvals via the DRECP. The renewable energy approvals include construction of the Oberon, Arica and Victory Pass solar projects near Desert Center in eastern Riverside County. The Oberon project will generate up to 500 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power approximately 146,000 homes, and includes 200 megawatts of battery storage. The Arica and Victory Pass projects will result in a combined infrastructure investment of about $689 million, generate $5.9 million in annual operational economic benefit, provide power to approximately 132,000 homes, and add up to 465 megawatts of clean energy generating capacity and 400 megawatts of battery storage.

In June, the BLM reached a conservation milestone through the DRECP with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by approving the JB Eastern Slope Mitigation project, which will restore 158,000 acres of BLM-managed public lands as part of state-required mitigation for solar development on private lands.

Additional information, including National Environmental Policy Act documents, are available on ePlanning at the Palen Solar Project webpage.

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