In a week dedicated to renewable, clean energy, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar approved construction of three solar power plants and a wind farm on U.S. public lands for the first time in US history. The three solar power plants, all located in California, could generate 1,124 megawatts of clean energy, which is enough to power 337,000 to 843,000 homes. The wind farm, located on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts, or approximately 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Island combined.
The landmark announcements came in a series of press releases from the Department of the Interior as part of the Administrationâ€™s effort to encourage both a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands.
The largest of the three solar plants, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is the first large-scale effort to use â€œpower towerâ€ technology. According to reporting by United Press International, power tower technology uses arrays comprised of fields of mirrors that focus solar energy on a central tower receiver. Steam from solar boilers on top of the towers drive a nearby turbine that generates electricity for the transmission grid.
Each location underwent extensive environmental review prior to authorization. The Ivanpah proposal, in particular, changed significantly in response to public comments in order to minimize impact on the local environment. "I am pleased with the changes we have made to improve this project, Salazar stated in his remarks last week. "It is important that we learn from our experience to ensure that environmentally-responsible clean energy is developed wisely and in the right places."
The wind farm, which took 8 years to plan and receive the necessary permits, will consist of 130 wind turbines. In his opening remarks at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Wind Conference, Secretary Salazar expressed optimism for wind energy development. â€œIf we fully pursue our potential for wind energy on land and offshore, wind can generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity by 2030 and create a quarter-million jobs in the process.â€
The Interior Department also highlighted the economic benefits of these projects in last weekâ€™s press releases. In addition to providing clean, renewable energy, the solar power plants and the wind farm also generate much needed jobs. The three solar plants are expected to provide approximately 2,100 new jobs.
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Â© Anne Houghton for Gather.com
Photo by Theodore Scott at flickr.com