BLM Approves Blythe Mesa Solar Project

WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Aug. 24 approved the Blythe Mesa Solar project in California as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, create jobs and move the economy toward clean energy sources. The 485-megawatt photovoltaic facility will be constructed in Riverside County, Calif., and will produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 California homes, according to a statement by the BLM.

“The Obama Administration is committed to expanding responsible domestic energy production on our public lands as we diversify our nation’s energy portfolio and transition to a cleaner energy future,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Working closely with industry and state, tribal and local communities, these projects not only provide clean energy and cut carbon emissions, but also strengthen local economies, generate good jobs and provide affordable, reliable, sustainable power across the West.”

“Blythe Mesa is one of the largest renewable energy projects approved by the BLM,” added Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Janice Schneider in a statement. “The Department of the Interior is leading the way in facilitating responsible development of critical renewable energy resources that provide clean, sustainable energy to communities in the desert southwest.”

In recent years the Department of the Interior has made significant investments in clean energy. Blythe Mesa marks the 57th project authorized by the department since 2009, bringing the total number of projects to 34 solar, 11 wind, and 12 geothermal utility scale renewable energy facilities and associated transmission infrastructure, according to the BLM statement. In total, these projects are expected to support more than 26,000 construction and operations jobs. They will also generate nearly 15,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power five million homes, according to BLM estimates.

"Blythe Mesa is another step forward toward diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio to meet the growing demand for renewable resources," said BLM Director Neil Kornze in a statement. "With this approval, the BLM is well on its way in realizing the president’s vision of permitting 20,000 MW of renewable energy on public land by the end of this decade."

Proposed by Los Angeles-headquartered RRG Renewables, the Blythe Mesa project will be built on 3,587 acres of private land and will fall under the jurisdiction of both Riverside County and the City of Blythe. Interior Department approval was required for the project as the 230-kilovolt generation interconnection transmission line, which will allow the facility to connect to an electric grid, crosses five miles of public lands managed by the BLM. The line will allow the solar facility to connect into the Colorado River Substation in eastern Riverside County, according to a BLM statement.

The BLM also worked with Riverside County to complete a joint environmental impact assessment that evaluated the potential effects on agriculture, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, noise, paleontological resources, and traffic and transportation. Various local tribes were consulted regarding sacred or culturally significant areas that could be affected by the project as well.

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