U.S. Government Eyes Riverside County for Solar Project

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Riverside County could be the site of a major solar energy project that would be part of President Barack Obama's plan to increase renewable energy resources throughout America.

In December, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released the environmental impact report for the McCoy Solar Energy Project. The plans call for a 750-megawatt solar power plant that could supply power to 225,000 homes. The facility would be situated on about 4,400 acres of mainly public land near Blythe in Riverside County that is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. If the project is approved, it would be one of the largest solar facilities on public lands in the California desert, according to a government press release.

“The McCoy project reflects this administration's groundbreaking efforts to stand up a renewable energy economy on public land,” Salazar said in the release. “As we move forward to strengthen our nation's energy portfolio, what's happening with renewable energy is nothing short of a revolution. From authorizing more than 10,000 megawatts of energy on public lands, to establishing a roadmap for responsible solar development in the West, to flipping the switch on the first solar energy project to deliver power to the grid, 2012 has been a year full of results.”

Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved 34 renewable energy projects on public land, which could generate about 10,400 megawatts. The president had a goal of approving 10,000 megawatts in projects by 2013. Before President Obama took office, there were no solar energy projects slated for public land.

In fall 2012, Secretary of the Interior Salazar unveiled the environmental impact statement for a solar energy zone program, which would call for the development of renewable energy resources on public land in California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. There are 17 solar energy zones under the plan, covering about 285,000 acres. The program includes a solar power facility on tribal land belonging to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Nevada-the facility, approved in June and slated to be operational in 2016, will serve Los Angeles residents under a 25-year, $1.6 billion agreement signed by the Los Angeles City Council in late 2012.

The environmental impact report for the McCoy Solar Energy Project is open for public review until Jan. 22.

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