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Feds Approve Largest-ever Solar Project in California

Liana Teixeira

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The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration has approved a solar project located on federally owned land in southern California. This comes after a five-

Solar Panels being installed in California as part of the new solar project that was recently approved.

year hiatus from the Bureau of Land Management when solar developers asked for rights to develop solar plants on federally owned land.

According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the thousand-megawatt project will be constructed in an area of the Mojave Desert, near Blythe, California. The project is called the Blythe Solar Power Project and will cost approximately $6 billion. Solar Millennium, a German solar developer, is assisting in its production. “Today is a day that makes me excited about the nation’s future,” Salazar said Monday at a news conference. “This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home.”

The approval of the Blythe Project marks the sixth federally authorized solar power project this month; all projects are located in California and Nevada. With a seventh project awaiting approval in the coming weeks and a total of fourteen projects planned, this enthusiastic response to solar energy does not seem to be ending anytime soon. Combined, the projects are expected to create 2,000 jobs during its construction and a few hundred permanent jobs after its completion. By the end of 2011 or early 2012, the power generated by all seven projects could start transmitting electricity to over 2 million homes.

In addition to providing considerable employment opportunities, these types of projects are the first ever to be approved by the land management bureau. Compared to the 74,000 oil and gas permits issued in the past twenty years, this revitalized motivation towards creating more clean energy sources makes the projects truly momentous. In spite of these breakthroughs, solar power has a long way to go before it becomes a major source of power in the U.S. According to Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based trade group Solar Energy Industries Association, “Even after the 14 fast-track projects are approved, solar energy will remain a tiny fraction of overall energy production on U.S. lands.” If future projects such as the Blythe Project gain acceptance, however, solar power will gain a more prominent role within society.

An increase in the usage of solar power would undoubtedly benefit people and the environment. Unlike oil or gas, solar power is a natural resource and, therefore, has little to no danger of readily depleting. Furthermore, the release of pollution or greenhouse gases while using solar energy is virtually eliminated. This protects plants, animals, and other living organisms in the environment.

The federal government is taking many precautions upon embarking on this major project, including the protection of wildlife. An 8,000 acre habitat will be established to accommodate animals such as the desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
Feds Approve Largest-ever Solar Project in California