Biden administration advances two large-scale solar projects in California

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday the approval of two major solar projects on public lands in California as part of a broader push to promote onshore renewable energy production.

The two projects — together with a third whose approval is almost complete — will collectively generate about 1,000 megawatts of power and are the first projects to be authorized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in California’s desert regions, according to the Interior Department.

“The efficient deployment of renewable energy projects will create good-paying jobs and are crucial in achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035," BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement. 

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The announcement of these expansive new solar projects comes as the Biden administration confronts significant setbacks to its climate agenda after Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Martin Luther King III: Biden, senators need to use same energy to pass voting rights as they did for infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.) indicated that he would not be supporting the president’s Build Back Better plan earlier this week.

“As the Interior Department continues to lead the Biden-Harris administration’s all-of-government approach toward its ambitious renewable energy goals, we know that onshore solar projects like those being advanced today will help communities across the country be part of the climate solution while creating good-paying union jobs,” Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans Biden administration announces actions bolstering clean energy  MORE said in a statement. 

The Arica and Victory Pass projects, which received BLM approval on Tuesday, will be able to power about 132,000 homes — generating a total of up to 465 megawatts of electricity with up to 400 megawatts of battery storage, according to the Interior Department. Together, Arica and Victory Pass will lead to an infrastructure investment of $689 million and $5.9 million in annual operational economic benefit. 

The third project, a 500-megawatt photovoltaic solar project called Oberon, is expected to receive BLM approval in the coming days, the Interior Department said. Oberon would sit on 2,700 acres of public lands and could generate up to 500 megawatts of renewable energy and power almost 142,000 homes. 

The Arica, Victory Pass and Oberon projects are all situated on lands identified as suitable for renewable energy development through the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which includes 10.8 million acres of public lands in desert areas of seven California counties, according to the Interior Department.

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Prior to approving these sites for renewable projects, the Interior Department said that it works with the BLM, tribal governments, local communities, state regulators, industry and other federal agencies.

Approval of the Arica and Victory Pass projects on Tuesday follows a Monday announcement from the BLM, which said it was soliciting interest for utility-scale solar energy development on about 90,000 acres of public land in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. This would amount to the BLM’s largest push for solar development since it launched a comprehensive solar energy planning initiative in 2012.

“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,” Stone-Manning said.