Large Solar-Plus-Storage Project Underway in California Desert

Construction of a major solar-plus-storage installation in California has been approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Desert Quartzite project, sited on about 3,000 acres near Blythe in eastern Riverside County, will feature a 300-MW solar array along with 600 MWh of energy storage.

Desert Quartzite, being developed by EDF Renewables North America, represents a $1 billion investment. The BLM on Feb. 7 issued a Notice to Proceed with the project, which includes an on-site substation and switchyard, along with a 230-kV generation-tie line and operations and maintenance facility.

The BLM said construction could take up to 16 months, with operation expected to commence by year-end 2024. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of U.S. public land, with the majority in 12 western states, including Alaska. The group on Tuesday noted that it is following Congress’ direction in the Energy Act of 2020 to permit as much as 25 GW of solar, wind and geothermal generation capacity on public lands no later than 2025.

“The BLM continues to approve responsibly-sited renewable energy projects to help advance clean energy production on public land and meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050,” said Karen Mouritsen, state director for BLM California. “The project will generate good paying union jobs, boost local economies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

900 Construction Jobs

Officials said the project is expected to create as many as 900 jobs during peak construction. BLM approved Desert Quartzite in January 2020 after an environmental analysis was published in September 2019.

The project expects to use Canadian Solar BiHiKu7 650-watt bifacial monocrystalline PERC panels, along with SMA 4.2-MW inverter stations. It will include Nextracker horizontal single-axis tracking solar photovoltaic hardware and 150 MW/600 MWh of battery systems.

EDF Renewables North America last week said it placed more than 1 GW of onshore wind, solar, and energy storage in service during 2022.  Tristan Grimbert, the company’s president and CEO, in a news release said, “I’m very proud of our team’s ability to deliver this scale of renewable energy projects in light of the many challenges during the year around import restrictions, supply chain constraints and increased cost of capital.”

Grimbert said passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year provides “a hopeful outlook for stability in support of our long-term strategy to decarbonize the energy sector.  We launch into 2023 with 1.2 GW in construction and nearly 8 GW in late-stage development.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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