Giant 690-MW Gemini solar project near Las Vegas on BLM land gets the go-ahead


Declaring it part of the Trump administration’s “all of the above approach to domestic energy production,” the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just announced the approval of a proposal to construct and operate the 690 MW Gemini solar project — what will be the largest solar project in the U.S. upon completion.

The land proposed for the enormous development is on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Among the concerns was the project’s visual impact on an historic railroad camp, as well as the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

Those issues have been mitigated. New methods of working with native vegetation and wildlife are being implemented. Desert tortoises are being relocated during construction, later to be returned — and the project is full-speed ahead for developers Arevia Power and Solar Partners XI.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed the record of decision (ROD) for the developers to construct the $1 billion project that could generate enough electricity to power 260,000 homes in the Las Vegas region and energy markets in Southern California.

Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department said, in a conference call, “Domestic energy production on federal lands remains fundamental to our national security and the achievements of the Trump administration.”

The on-site construction workforce is expected to average 500 to 700 construction workers, with a peak of up to 900 workers, supporting up to an additional 1,100 jobs in the local community and injecting an estimated $712.5 million into the economy during construction, according to a release.

The Secretary signed the ROD after an extensive battery of public meetings, commentary and protests on the Draft EIS. The BLM also held government-to-government consultations with the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Fort Mojave Tribe, Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe.

Some early approvals

The decision approved a right-of-way grant for the Gemini project and authorized solar facilities that include:

  • 34.5 kilovolt overhead and underground collector lines
  • A 2-acre operation and maintenance facility
  • Three substations
  • Internal access roads, access roads along generation tie-lines, a perimeter road
  • Perimeter fencing
  • Water storage tanks for fire protection, drainage control features, a potential on-site water well or a new water pipeline
  • Improvements to the existing NV Energy facilities to support interconnection.

The two-phase project is anticipated to be completed as early as 2022, and will feature a mammoth 380 MW/1,400 MWh lithium-ion battery, one of the largest known to pv magazine.

Mr. Hammond of the Department of Interior said in today’s phone briefing, “This decision is an important moment in Nevada history.”

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