President Barack Obama announced late Monday that a large wind farm and a solar-power plant both planned on federal land in Arizona will get expedited reviews so they can begin construction quickly.
Five other projects across California, Nevada and Wyoming will get similar treatment, according to the announcement.
The projects in Arizona include the Mohave Wind Energy facility that BP Wind Energy of North America has proposed for a site northwest of Kingman and southwest of Hoover Dam. The project could have as many as 258 wind turbines spread across 47,000 acres of public land, according to the draft environmental-impact statement.
It could generate between 425 megawatts and 500 megawatts of electricity in a steady breeze, according to the impact statement. One megawatt is about enough to power 250 average Arizona homes at once, when a power plant is operating.
The other Arizona project getting fast-tracked is the Quartzsite Solar Energy facility planned by SolarReserve off Interstate 10 in western Arizona.
The power plant would be capable of generating 100 megawatts of power in direct sunlight using a solar-thermal technology.
SolarReserve’s technology uses thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight to the top of a 550-foot tower, where the heat is used to generate electricity. The Quartzsite project also would incorporate technology to store heat and generate electricity when clouds pass or after sunset.
The news release from the White House said both projects will help Arizona meet its targets for renewable energy. However, neither BP nor Solar Reserve has announced deals to sell its electricity to utilities, which typically is required for power plants to move forward. It is possible one or both could end up selling the electricity into California if they are built.
The announcement said the projects are part of Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” initiative to create jobs with infrastructure projects. It builds on a March executive order from the president to make government agencies more efficient at processing applications for infrastructure projects so as not to delay investments. The projects still must face federal review, but apparently with an increased urgency.
“We are working to advance smart development of renewable energy on our public lands,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement. “These seven proposed solar and wind projects have great potential to grow our nation’s energy independence, drive job creation and power economies across the West.”
Salazar visited Arizona in January to meet with renewable-energy leaders and said then that the administration would expand its push for developing alternative energy.
Last month, the Interior Department announced a final plan to quickly permit solar plants on 17 designated sites throughout the West, including two in Arizona.
There are no immediate plans for those sites, but if the plan is approved and developers choose to build there, the permitting process will be quick because all possible concerns with those parcels already have been addressed, according to the department.