Public input sought on large-scale solar project in Arizona – pv magazine USA

Public input sought on large-scale solar project in Arizona – pv magazine USA

Public input sought on large-scale solar project in Arizona – pv magazine USA

According to the application submitted by developer EDF Renewables, the proposed Socorro project would be located on 3,066 acres on nearly 6,000 acres of public land and would produce up to 350 MW of solar power along with battery energy storage.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public input to inform the development of an environmental assessment for the proposed Socorro solar energy project in southeastern La Paz County.

According to the application submitted by developer EDF Renewables in October 2021, the proposed Socorro project is designed to produce up to 350 MW of solar power along with battery energy storage.

The BLM Arizona State Office has completed the solar variance review process and determined it is appropriate to continue processing the Socorro Solar Project application. At this time, BLM AZ is requesting approval of the Socorro Solar Project Variance Determination from the State Director.

The concurrence will not approve the proposed project, but allows the BLM to continue processing the application and begin its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, including this public outreach and the preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

A 38-day public comment period for an environmental assessment that will analyze and disclose potential impacts began July 1. The BLM is seeking input relevant to the development of alternatives, environmental analyses, and resource protection measures.

The project is expected to occupy 3,066 acres of the nearly 6,000-acre site located within a Renewable Energy Development Area (REDA), as designated by the Arizona Restoration Design Energy Project Record of Decision issued by BLM in January 2013.

The clean electricity is expected to be delivered to the grid via the massive 500 kV Ten West Link transmission line, which is projected to be approximately 1.3 miles long and would cross the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and Interstate 10 south of the CAP. The application includes a 30-foot-wide access road for which the BLM is requesting a 40-year right-of-way.

Project information, including maps, will be available on the project website within the BLM’s NEPA National Registry.

Environmental assessments evaluate the potential impacts of the project and address Native American religious concerns; threatened, endangered, and sensitive species; socioeconomic effects; environmental justice; and other issues. The environmental assessment also looks at potential mitigation measures that may reduce environmental impacts.

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In April, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Final rules have been published The BLM is implementing a program that regulates the leasing and rental of renewable energy projects located on public lands. The rules were developed with consultation from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Earlier this year, the BLM released a draft analysis of the Utility-Scale Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that identifies 22 million acres in 11 states that are best suited for solar development. The document calls for solar development to focus on areas with fewer sensitive resources, fewer conflicts with other public land uses, and proximity to transmission lines, having identified 200,000 acres of land near existing transmission infrastructure.

A recent study by Berkeley National Laboratory’s Energy Markets and Policy (EMP) Department, in collaboration with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, concluded that engaging the public is important when siting large-scale solar energy projects.

“Public input during the scoping review will help inform the development of a range of alternatives that will be reviewed by the BLM,” said William Mack, Colorado River District Manager. “We invite our federal, state, tribal and local partners, stakeholders and the public to participate in the scoping review.”

The United States has set a goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2035. To achieve this, a lot of land needs to be used for solar energy production. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that if the United States were to meet all of its electricity needs with solar energy alone, it would require about 10 million acres, or 0.4% of the country’s land area.

Comments must be submitted in writing by the close of business on August 7, 2024. Written comments are encouraged and may be submitted by mail or email to [email protected] or within the project website on the BLM National NEPA Registry. If submitting comments by mail, please send comments to: BLM Arizona State Office at 1 North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004, and note “Attention: Derek Eysenbach/Socorro Solar Project.”

If approved, the Socorro project is scheduled to begin construction in 2025.

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