‘Unlocking renewable resources’| US greenlights key solar line project to power California

The US Department of Interior (DoI) on Thursday gave Starwood Energy Group approval to construct the 125-mile (201 km) Ten West Link transmission project with capacity to deliver power from 3.2GW of new solar capacity from Arizona to California.

The 500kV alternating current overhead line will traverse a region in the Sonoran Desert with some of the nation’s highest levels of insolation, providing critical transmission infrastructure to support the development of future utility-scale solar energy resources.

Once operational in 2023, it will also improve reliability of the bulk power system for millions of customers in Central Arizona and Southern California.

“Approving this new transmission line on our public lands will accelerate our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy by unlocking renewable resources, creating jobs, lowering costs, and boosting local economies,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

The greenlight for Ten West Link follows recent approvals for construction of the Oberon, Arica, and Victory Pass solar projects in California with 965MW of nameplate capacity and will add 600MW of battery storage.

Ten West Link is among 64 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on federal lands in the western US being processed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of DoI. BLM administers 244 million acres (99 million ha) of lands owned by the federal government.

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DoI estimates these projects have the combined potential to add more than 41GW of renewable energy to the western electric grid. They include geothermal, solar, and wind, as well as interconnect gen-tie lines that are vital to clean energy projects proposed on local, private, and state lands.

BLM is also undertaking the preliminary review of 90 applications for solar and wind development, as well as 51 more for testing of those resources for other potential projects.

DoI was among five presidential cabinet departments – the others were Agriculture, Defence, and Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency – that signed an agreement to improve federal coordination and streamline reviews to spearhead a lead-off 25GW of renewable energy project developments on federal lands.

The 25-page document follows on from the US Energy Act of 2020’s requirement that the DoI establish a programme to improve interagency cooperation for this purpose.

The plan also supports President Joe Biden’s goal of clean electricity by 2035 and builds on his January executive order which gave priority to improved permitting as part of “tackling the climate crisis”.

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