Quartzsite solar project goes to BLM

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Yuma Field Office is considering amending a land use plan to allow the use of public land for the proposed Quartzsite Solar Energy Project in La Paz County, Arizona.

A Notice of Intent announcing the proposed amendment was published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2011. The land use plan amendment would be in conjunction with the proposed solar project.

The Notice of Intent, initiates the public participation and scoping processes for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. A public scoping period of at least 30 days ends on April 29, 2011. Two public meetings on the proposed land use plan amendment are scheduled:

Monday, April 18, 2011, 6 – 8 p.m.
Yuma BLM Field Office
2555 E. Gila Ridge Road
Yuma, Arizona

Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 6 – 8 p.m.
Quartzsite Town Hall
465 North Plymouth Avenue
Quartzsite, Arizona 85346
(928) 927-4333

Quartzsite Solar Energy LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Solar Reserve LLC, has submitted an application to the BLM requesting a right-of-way to construct, maintain and operate an electrical generating facility with a capacity of up to 100 megawatts, using concentrated solar thermal tower technology. An array of mirrors would focus light on receivers at the top of a 653-foot tower. The focused energy would be used to heat salt to a molten state, which would in turn heat steam to power a turbine. The project would require approximately 1,450 acres of BLM-managed land. The proposed site is about 10 miles north of Quartzsite and about 1 mile east of State Route 95.

Western Area Power Administration, a Federal agency, is also requesting a right-of-way for their connected action to the project for a 230-kilovolt collector transmission line, substation, and other related facilities.

The proposed project may require an amendment to the Yuma Resource Management Plan (RMP) because the area is designated as a Visual Resource Management Class III area. The objective of Class III designation is to partially retain the existing character of the landscape. The level of change to the characteristic landscape should be moderate, under that classification.

A visual contrast rating analysis determined a potential strong contrast to the landscape because of the proposed size of the project, the receivers’ glow, and the proximity to State Route 95. Under those conditions, the project would not be in compliance with the Yuma RMP. Thus an amended RMP may be required before right-of-way approval could be given for the project.

The Notice of Intent, initiates the public participation and scoping processes for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. A public scoping period of at least 30 days and at least two public meetings will be announced through the local news media, newspapers, and BLM’s website at least 15 days prior to the meeting.

During the public scoping period, the BLM is soliciting public comment on issues, concerns, and opportunities that should be considered in the analysis. Comments about the proposed action should focus on the potential environmental impacts, visual resource management, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts. In order to be included in the Draft NEPA document, all comments must be received prior to the close of the scoping period. Additional opportunities for public participation and formal comment will occur when the Draft NEPA document is issued. Comments may be submitted by either of the following methods:

Mail: Use first-class postage and include your name, any organization you represent, and a return address to: Quartzsite Solar Energy Project, ATTN: Eddie Arreola, Supervisory Project Manager, BLM State Office, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
Electronic Mail: Include your name, any organization you represent, and return address in the email message to:

The public should be aware that addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or other personal identifying information may be made public.

2 comments

  1. This project was tried once before in Daggett, California. “Solar One” was built in 1981 as an experimental power generating station. It operated from 1982 to 1986 when it was redesigned and renamed “Solar Two”. It’s maximum output was only 10 Mega Watts, about enough power for 7,500 homes. The plant was extremely expensive to build and maintain and was an instantaneous death for any bird flying through the concentrated beam of light. The birds would literally vaporize in mid-air in a puff of smoke. I witnessed that many times when at the sight. Considering all the Hawks and other birds that make their home in the area I can imagine there numbers will soon be depleted.

    Water is also an issue to be considered. These plants require a large amount of water for daily operation even when using a steam recovery system such as a cooling tower. Where will the water come from, the Town of Quartzsite or on-site Wells?

    This size of the plant is estimated at 100 Mega Watts. Given the maximum output of Solar One and Two was only 10 Mega Watts, how is the increased capacity achieved with similar proposed dimensions? How many steam turbines are actually proposed and what will their average output be on a daily basis? Who stands to benefit from the power produced? Will the power go to Quartzsite, or just fed into the existing power grid with no real benefit to the Town? Will it decrease my electric bill? Who will maintain the hundreds of mirrors and keep them free of dust and debris. Will the power output produce enough power to pay the expenses of operating the plant and paying the workers? If “Solar One” was such a good idea back in 1981, why aren’t there similar plants all over the California desert? This may look on the surface as a good idea, but it was tried once before and it couldn’t produce enough electricity to pay its own way. Do a Google or Yahoo search, the information is readily available.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project

    http://atlasobscura.com/place/solar-one-and-solar-two

  2. Lone Ranger- I’m surprised you don’t seem to think these rudimentary questions have been answered by necessity before now.

    Power companies don’t just guess at the wattage a facility will generate; it’s calculated as part of the design of the project. Impact on birds, water resources, etc. are all dealt with in the scoping report, available HERE.

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