690 MW Gemini solar project on hold over permit delay

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The Gemini Solar project was so close to getting fully approved for construction — but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management missed the date to decide the project’s Section 106 permit, which was supposed to be given out in March. Now, Gemini, anticipated to be the largest solar installation in the country upon completion, waits in limbo.

Just as every proposed solar project must go through an environmental impact study, the Section 106 permit is one that evaluates a project’s historic impact. The land proposed for the 690 MW proposed giant is on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The concern is over the project’s visual impact on an historic railroad camp, as well as the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail was used by settlers in the 1830s to 1860s to bring goods from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles, California. Along the way, these settlers would also trade with the local Native American groups that they encountered. The trail is lauded for making Santa Fe the hub of the overland continental trade between Mexico and United States, and for the story of two toddlers traversing the trail while packed into mule saddlebags.

In response to the delay, BLM has shared that the organization can no longer give a timeframe for a decision, but a spokesperson told Reuters that the bureau is working “expeditiously” to finish the work.

Developer Arevia Power shared with Reuters that the project’s permit decision may have been pushed back as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but gave no concrete reasoning.

The project is still anticipated to be completed in 2023, and will feature a mammoth 380 MW/1,520 MWh lithium-ion battery, one of the largest known to pv magazine. The project is set to cost $1 billion to construct and will employ nearly 2,400 people at peak construction.