- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has completed its environmental assessment of EDF Renewable Energy's 500 MW Palen Solar Project, planned for an area near Joshua Tree National Park, on public lands in eastern Riverside County, Calif.
- The BLM's assessment is a major milestone for the project which, on more than 3,000 acres, would be among the largest solar projects in the country. Its size and potential impacts are among the reasons some conservationists have opposed the project.
- While President Trump campaigned on rebuilding the coal industry and the development of fossil fuels in general, his administration has continued to approve renewables projects and research funding.
While much of the focus has been on coal and nuclear plants, the Trump Administration is pursuing an all-of-the-above energy strategy that also includes support for renewables.
The Palen project underwent a major technology change to get approval and will still face challenges, but the BLM assessment is a major step forward for developers' plans to produce enough energy to power about 130,000 homes.
Abengoa SA took over full ownership of the Palen project in 2014 following a deal with BrightSource Energy. In 2015, the company altered the design in response to criticism, abandoning a proposed solar tower configuration in favor of a solar trough project, which uses curved mirrors to focus sunlight on a thin collector tube filled with liquid.
In December 2015, EDF Renewable Energy acquired the Palen project application.
The project is now designed to include a main generation area, on-site substation, switchyard, site security, a 230 kV generation-tie line, and an operations and maintenance facility potentially onsite, BLM said.
The approval is "consistent with the Trump Administration's priority of pursuing energy independence, while improving infrastructure and creating jobs in local economies," BLM said in a statement. At peak, the project will employ more than 1,100 workers.
The agency is committed to supporting "responsible energy development that stabilizes the grid and strengthens the nation's energy infrastructure," BLM California Desert District Manager Beth Ransel added.
In terms of grid stability, the Trump Administration has mostly focused on the future of coal plants. The Administration is considering several options to keep coal and nuclear plants from closing.