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BLM approves desert power transmission project

The Bureau of Land Management approved a new substation and upgrades to 35 miles of transmission lines near the California-Nevada border that will be used to transfer electricity from energy projects around the Ivanpah Valley to utility customers, officials announced Thursday.

Southern California Edison will be replacing the current 115 kilovolt transmission line — located on lands owned by the BLM — with a 230 kilovolt line, according to a BLM statement. About 28 miles of the transmission line are located in Nevada, while seven miles of the project are located in California.

The new Ivanpah substation will be located in California and will serve as a connector hub for the solar energy produced in the Ivanpah Valley area, according to the BLM. Construction of the project is expected to begin later this year and should take about 18 months for completion.

Brightsource supports school land program

Assembly Bill 982 — which would require the State Lands Commission to attempt land exchanges with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in order to form connected parcels of school land — is being supported by BrightSource Energy. BrightSource is currently building the Ivanpah solar facility near the California-Nevada border.

The bill hopes to form contiguous parcels of land from the scattered school lands — many of which are located in remote areas of the desert — granted by the federal government to support public education.

The consolidation of lands would be used for habitat mitigation, said BrightSource spokesman Keely Wachs. For many solar projects, each acre of land used for the project has to be mitigated with three acres of habitat for wildlife, said Wachs. Wachs said consolidating the lands would be a more thoughtful application for species protection instead of using fragmented lands — since migrating animals would be able to stay on one parcel of land.

Plan to avoid tortoises at First Solar Stateline project explained

The developers of a proposed 300 megawatt solar project on Bureau of Land Management lands near the California-Nevada border plans to shift panels to the south and east to avoid threatened desert tortoises, which appear to mainly inhabit the northern section of the 2,154 acre site. A total of 20 megawatts of power will be moved from the northern section to the east and 88 megawatts will be moved to the south, said Director of Project Development Mike Argentine.

A total of 12 tortoises were found at the site during recent surveys, said Argentine. Three tortoises would be avoided by shifting the panels, said Argentine. The company is continuing surveys for the tortoises and is looking for areas without desert tortoises.

A notice of intent for the project should be published in the federal register by the end of the month, said Argentine. Public scoping meetings on the project should be held before the end of June and a draft environmental impact statement should be out by the end of 2011, said Argentine. Construction of the project will take about two to three years and provide about 400 construction jobs.

Solar, wind energy listed in top 10 thriving industries

A recent report by research firm IBIS World shows that both solar and wind energy are in the top 10 fastest-growing industries.

Wind power was ranked second in the report, with 16.9 percent growth from 2000 to 2010. Wind power earned $3.38 billion in revenue in 2010 and is expected to grow another 11.2 percent in the next five years.

Solar power was ranked seventh in the report, with 2.7 percent growth from 2000 to 2010. Solar power earned $69 million in revenue in 2010 and is expected to grow another 7.9 percent in the next five years.

Google, Citibank each invest $55 million in Tehachapi wind project

Both Google and Citibank will invest a total of $110 million in the Alta Wind Energy Center located in the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern County, executives announced Tuesday.

Google has already invested hundreds of millions in wind energy and has also invested $168 million in the Ivanpah solar project owned by BrightSource Energy.

The Alta Wind project will generate a total of 1.5 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power 450,000 homes.

The project is expected to provide more than 3,000 jobs — including jobs in construction, domestic manufacturing, operation and maintenance.

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