Interior Greenlights Lucerne Valley and Imperial Valley Solar Projects in California

Projects will create jobs and provide valuable lessons on clean energy development

San Francisco, CA (October 5, 2010) – U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar will announce today that he is permitting the first two new solar projects on public lands in California in more than two decades.

Chevron’s Lucerne Valley solar project and Tessera Solar’s Imperial Valley solar project are among nine proposed solar energy projects that Salazar’s department has been considering over the past year.

Combined the two projects have the potential to generate enough clean electricity for almost 226,000 homes, and Tessera Solar’s project will create approximately 600 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs, according to the project developers.

Following is a statement from Natural Resources Defense Council’s senior attorney Johanna Wald:

“The permitting of these two projects represents a major milestone in renewable energy on public lands and a down payment on America’s transition to a clean energy economy. Perhaps most importantly, the process provided valuable lessons that careful planning, siting and designing up front will lead to renewable projects that are smart from the start.

“A program is smart from the start if it guides development to the least conflict areas -- or zones -- rather than prioritizing development on a first come first serve basis. DOI must play a proactive role to ensure speedy, responsible development of the renewable resources that we need.

“NRDC, along with the Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife, played an instrumental role in getting these projects to where they are today, and encouraged important mitigation measures to minimize their impacts on diverse wildlife, precious water supplies and other key desert resources.

“Chevron’s Lucerne Valley solar project is a great example of a project that’s smart from the start. The project fits the bill because, as a result of careful planning up front, its site has high solar potential, is close to existing roads and transmission, and avoids sensitive wildlife areas and other vital natural resources.

“Although the Tessera Solar project site in Imperial Valley met some of NRDC’s criteria, it initially posed resource and technology issues. Today, it serves as an example of what can be accomplished when parties are committed to finding solutions to such issues. During the federal and state reviews Tessera Solar moved the project out of sensitive desert washes, scaling it back to 709-megawatts, to reduce important impacts. Tessera Solar then sat down with NRDC and our conservation partners and agreed to develop the project in two distinct stages and other measures, all of which went above and beyond the requirements imposed by state and federal regulators.

“The projects suggest three key lessons that if adopted by everyone will greatly expedite renewable energy development in California and in the rest of the West:

1) Once time and money have been invested in a project, it’s really difficult and costly to fix its problems.

2) There is a better way. Renewable developers, federal land managers and other regulators must be smart from the start in planning, siting and designing projects.

3) DOI must incorporate these and other lessons from this process to create an environmentally responsible roadmap that will guide the way to cheaper, faster and more efficient development of clean energy projects.