|Photovoltaic panels used to collect solar energy. |
California is generously endowed with sunshine - a naturally occurring energy source holding tremendous promise for helping meet the State's growing energy needs. The California Desert region holds some of the highest concentrations of solar energy in the United States.
California continues to be a pioneer in this area, offering incentives for small-scale solar development through the California Solar Initiative and mandating one of the most aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards in the nation.
On public lands, solar development for large-scale electricity projects is just beginning, but the future looks bright. In late 2010, the BLM approved the first utility-scale solar energy projects on public lands. The BLM approved more projects in 2011, and continues to process applications, primarily in the California Desert. All are carefully considered through detailed environmental reviews with full public involvement.
Applicants have submitted proposals for a variety of solar technologies. These can be generally described as follows:
- Photovoltaic technology uses solar cells packaged together in large arrays to convert sunlight directly into electricity.
- Parabolic trough technology uses rows of parabolic mirrors with an absorber tube to concentrate energy into a thermal power plant.
- Power tower technology uses a central tower (300-450 feet in height) with a field of mirrors to concentrate energy into a thermal power plant.
The BLM and Department of Energy have teamed up to direct solar energy development in the West through the Solar Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The agencies have have identified 19 Solar Energy Zones, including three in California, in which to prioritize solar energy development. The Solar PEIS Record of Decision was released in October 2012.
As part of the Solar PEIS, BLM California is piloting the development of a long term monitoring and adaptive management strategy in the Riverside East Solar Energy Zone.
Additional Information on solar projects is available from the California Energy Commission Website.
A solar technology using a central power tower in the middle of a circle of mirrors.