SAN FRANCISCO, California, March 13, 2013 (ENS) – Three renewable energy projects have been approved for public lands in California and Nevada that will deliver enough energy to power more than 340,000 homes, federal and state officials announced today.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made the announcement in San Francisco with California Governor Jerry Brown as part of their work together in support of state and federal clean energy goals.

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announces approval of three renewable energy projects, March 13, 2013 (Photo courtesy DOI)

The 750-megawatt McCoy Solar Energy Project and 150-megawatt Desert Harvest Solar Farm are both located in California’s Riverside East Solar Energy Zone, an area established through the Western Solar Energy Plan as most suitable for solar development.

The 200-megawatt Searchlight Wind Energy Project will be constructed on public lands in Clark County, Nevada.

“These renewable energy projects reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment to expand domestic energy production on our public lands and diversify our nation’s energy portfolio,” said Secretary Salazar.

Since 2009, the aligned federal and state permitting and environmental review processes have advanced five gigawatts of wind, solar, geothermal and transmission projects on public lands in California and more than 15 gigawatts statewide.

Interior and California agencies are engaged in writing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a mutual landscape-level planning effort to streamline renewable energy development in appropriate areas in the California desert, while conserving natural resources and natural communities for species protection and recovery. A draft of the plan is expected this summer.

“The President has called for America to continue taking bold steps on clean energy,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze, a native of Nevada. “Our Smart-from-the-Start analysis has helped us do just that, paving the way for responsible development of utility-scale renewable energy projects in the right way and in the right places.”

The approved projects have been subjected to environmental review and public comment. The companies agreed to undertake mitigation efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife, water, historical, cultural and other resources. State and federal agencies have set up a joint compensation fund operated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help mitigate impacts.

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left and California Governor Jerry Brown review maps of the solar farm sites, March 13, 2013 (Photo courtesy DOI)

In total, the three projects will displace an estimated 800,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year – equivalent to more than 150,000 cars – while generating tens of millions of dollars in construction payroll for about 1,000 workers, local housing demand, increased tax revenue and purchases of local goods and services during construction and operation.

The McCoy Solar Energy Project, located about 13 miles northwest of Blythe, California, was proposed by McCoy Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. Headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida, NextEra Energy owns Florida Power & Light and, through its subsidiaries, eight nuclear power plants in four states.

The 750-megawatt photovoltaic McCoy Solar facility will be one of the largest solar projects in the world, encompassing about 7,700 acres of land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and 477 acres of private land. Because the BLM worked with the developer to reduce the footprint, the project will occupy only 4,394 acres. Click here to see the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

McCoy Solar has agreed to purchase more than 4,500 acres of habitat to protect the desert tortoise, burrowing owl, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

When operational, the facility would generate enough clean power for an estimated 225,000 homes in southern California. A 12.5-mile generation transmission line would connect the project to Southern California Edison’s Colorado River Substation.

The Desert Harvest Solar Farm will be built by EDF Renewable Energy, the U.S. subsidiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles, itself a subsidiary of the Electricite de France Group, which is 85 percent owned by the government of France.

This 150-megawatt photovoltaic facility is approved for a site six miles north of Desert Center, California on about 1,208 acres of BLM-managed lands. See the BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement here.

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Site of the Desert Harvest solar farm (Photo courtesy BLM)

The facility will use a single-axis tracking technology that allows the solar panel arrays to follow the Sun to produce more electricity for the same amount of ground disturbance.

The project’s infrastructure will be concentrated with that of a nearby solar project, minimizing new ground disturbance. The BLM added requirements to ensure that the plant will not contribute to overdraft of the local groundwater basin.

When operational, the facility would generate enough electricity to power an estimated 45,000 homes in southern California. The project also includes an on-site substation and 230-kilovolt line to the Red Bluff Substation, which will connect the project to the Southern California Edison regional transmission grid.

The Searchlight Wind Energy Project is proposed by Searchlight Wind Energy, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the largest electric power holding company in the United States.

It will be built on 18,949 acres of BLM-managed land near Searchlight, Nevada, 60 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The permanent footprint of the 200-megawatt project will be about 160 acres. Click here to see the BLM’s draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Western Area Power Administration is proposing to construct, operate and maintain a new switching station to connect the project to the existing power grid. When built, the project would provide enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes.

Secretary Salazar, who has announced he will leave the Obama Administration shortly, is proud of his renewable energy accomplishments over the past four years.

“In just over four years, we have advanced 37 wind, solar and geothermal projects on our public lands – or enough to power more than 3.8 million American homes,” said Salazar today. “These projects are bolstering rural economies by generating good jobs and reliable power and strengthening our national energy security.”

The 37 renewable energy projects include 20 utility-scale solar facilities, eight wind farms and nine geothermal plants, with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids.

When built, these projects will provide more than 11,500 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power more than 3.8 million homes, and support an estimated 13,500 construction and operations jobs.

The Bureau of Land Management has identified another 23 active renewable energy proposals slated for review this year and next, including 14 solar facilities, six wind farms and three geothermal plants.

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