The largest solar project to date in the U.S. has received final approval from the Department of the Interior. A $1 billion, 690-megawatt solar array will be built on federal land in the Mojave Desert in Nevada. The project includes battery energy storage and is expected to produce enough electricity to power more than a quarter million homes. It will also offset the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about 83,000 cars a year.
The current largest U.S. installation, the Solar Star Farm in Southern California, completed in 2015, generates 579 megawatts of power.
Construction of the Gemini Solar Array is expected to start sometime this year and be completed by 2022 or 2023. The first phase of the project will cover 11 square miles of desert land about 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Some conservation groups have fought against the project, saying that it will destroy thousands of acres of habitat for endangered desert tortoises as well as other rare plant and animal species. The groups agree that solar energy is a good thing but are convinced that the location selected is the wrong one.
Interior Department representatives note that the Gemini Project will provide jobs and economic growth at a time when many Americans in general and Nevada citizens in particular are struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project is projected to generate $713 million in economic activity and employ about 2,000 people during construction. However, once it is up and running, it will employ just 19 full-time workers.
Photo, posted January 26, 2014, courtesy of Jannes Glas via Flickr.