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The Bureau of Land Management has approved the 500 MW Palen solar farm, a large-scale project in California that will be able to power as many as 130,000 homes, the agency said. The EDF Renewable Energy project will cost US$1 billion in private investment, the BLM noted.
Despite the fact it is a renewable installation, the Palen project has been criticized by environmentalists with the argument that it will affect local wildlife and ecosystems adversely. The farm will sprawl over 3,140 acres.
The approval of the project required an amendment to federal land use regulations that the Interior Department said would make it more difficult to pursue renewable energy projects. Indeed, the BLN’s release stated the decision to give the go-ahead to the EDF project constitutes an amendment of the California Desert Conservation Area Land Use Plan.
In its report on the news, the Desert Sun notes that while environmentalist groups’ general attitude towards renewable energy projects is naturally positive, some of them have pushed against large-scale developments in hitherto undisturbed areas. Instead, they are advocating for more rooftop solar installations and solar farms in already affected areas.
The location that the BLM picked for the Palen farm is of the former kind, according to several groups including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Parks Conservation Association. According to them, the installation will destroy the local habitat of the desert tortoise, affect a sand transport corridor feeding the habitat of another species, the Mojave fringe-toed lizard and the desert kit fox, and on top of that it will also ruin the view from the national park.
California had 704 operating solar power plants with a combined capacity of 10.83 GW as of the end of 2017, according to the state’s energy department. These last year produced 24,324 GWh of power, which accounted for 11.79 percent of the state’s total power production during the period.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.