Desert Quartzite solar-plus-storage plant gets greenlight from BLM


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the construction of the Desert Quartzite solar project near Blythe, Calif., in Riverside County, advancing the construction of the 300 MWac solar plus 600 MWh storage project developed by EDF Renewables North America.

“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, the California State Director of the BLM. “The project will generate good paying union jobs, boost local economies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Desert Quartzite solar project will result in capital investment of $1 billion and supply clean power to roughly 120,000 homes. The facility is expected to create more than 900 construction jobs and is expected to reach commercial scale operations by December 2024.

Once complete, the project would likely place among the top 10 largest U.S. utility solar projects based on projects in development through 2024 to 2025, where projects range from 300 MW to 690 MW in total capacity.

Desert Quartzite anticipates using Canadian Solar BiHiKu7 650 watt (DC) bifacial monocrystalline PERC panels, SMA 4.2 MW inverter stations, horizontal single-axis tracking solar photovoltaic (PV) hardware and 150 MW / 600 MWh of battery systems.

The BLM’s Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office granted notice to proceed (NTP) to Desert Quartzite, LLC, a subsidiary of project developer EDF Renewables, to begin construction and operation of the solar project, which includes an on-site sub-station, switchyard, site security, 230 kV generation-tie line, and an operations and maintenance facility.

The federal authority said construction on the solar-plus-storage facility will begin in early February on roughly 3,000 acres of BLM public land. The BLM approved the Desert Quartzite solar project in January 2020 after a 2019 environmental analysis.

The BLM manages vast stretches of public lands that have the potential to make significant contributions to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio. Renewable energy projects on our nation’s public lands support the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, as well as Congress’ direction in the Energy Act of 2020 to permit 25 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal production on public lands no later than 2025.

Desert Quartzite was initially developed by First Solar in 2019, but the integrated solar company sold its interest in the utility-scale project to EDF Renewables exclusively in March 2020, according to BLM documents.

In September 2021, community choice aggregator Clean Power Associates signed a 15-year power purchase agreement to purchase power from Desert Quartzite upon completion.

Clean Power Alliance is a locally operated electricity provider for 30 cities in southern California and ranks as the state’s fifth largest electricity provider.

In June 2021, CPA directors approved four contracts for 256.5 MW of renewable energy and 163 MW of storage. The contracts included one geothermal facility and three solar plus storage facilities, including Desert Quartzite.

PV Intel examined projects with commercial operations falling within the next three years, encompassing utility projects aimed at being wrapped up in the 2023 or 2024 timeframe since just entering the discussion within the last year. While 2020 to 2021 saw projects top out at 250 MW and 300 MW, the 2022 class of projects to enter the interconnection queue is roughly double the class of prior years, with many projects clocking in at 400 MW to 690 MW. 

According to the Energy Information Association’s database, as of December 2022 the largest operational solar projects (AC) include:

  1. Noble Solar (275 MW) – National Grid Renewables, Denton County, Texas
  2. Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 (253 MW) – Constellation Energy, Lancaster, Calif.
  3. Mount Signal Solar Farm V (252.3 MW) – Avantus, Imperial County, Calif.
  4. Moapa Southern Paiute (250 MW) – Arevon Energy, Clark County, Nev.
  5. Sun Valley Solar (250 MW) – Engie North America, Hill County, Texas
  6. Pisgah Ridge Solar (250 MW) – Duke Energy Sustainable, Navarro County, Texas
  7. Blythe Mesa Solar (Athos III) (223.6 MW) – Intersect Power, Riverside County, Calif.
  8. RE Tranquility (205.3 MW) – Recurrent Energy, Fresno County, Calif.
  9. RE Maplewood (222 MW) – Origis Energy, Pecos County, Texas
  10. Sun Mountain Solar 1 (200 MW) – lightsource bp, Pueblo County, Colo.
  11. Brazoria County Solar Project (200 MW) – Shikun & Binui, Brazoria County, Texas
  12. Shakes Solar (200 MW) – Cypress Creek Renewables, Dimmit County, Texas
  13. SE Athos II (200 MW) – Intersect Power, Riverside County, Calif.
  14. Wright Solar Park (200 MW) – Peninsula Clean Energy, Merced County, Calif.
  15. RE Garland (185.1 MW) – Recurrent Energy, Kern County, Calif.
  16. Midway Solar (185 MW) – 174 Power Global, Pecos County, Texas
  17. Castle Gap Solar Hybrid (180 MW) – Swift Current Energy, Upton County, Texas
  18. Townsite Solar (180 MW) – Arevon Energy, Boulder City, Nev.
  19. RE Roserock (160 MW) – Recurrent Energy, Fort Stockton, Texas
  20. Sunstreams 2 (160 MW) – Longroad Energy, Maricopa County, Ariz.

This article was amended to remove Nextracker as the identified tracker supplier.

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