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US land bureau rejects 200MW solar project in California

 The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rejected Iberdrola Renewable’s application for a 200MW solar project in California after the organisation deemed the project “would not be in the public’s interest”.

A subsidiary of the US-based solar developer had proposed the 200MW photovoltaic solar project on 1,616 acres about 10 miles north of Baker in the Silurian Valley, in San Bernardino County.

After undergoing what the BLM called a rigorous review process, the project was determined to not be in accordance with the BLM’s Western Solar Plan, enacted in 2012.

The plan established 17 so-called solar energy zones across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, for prioritised large-scale solar development. It also allows for solar development outside of the zones, but such projects must remain in line with the BLM’s requirements.

According to the BLM, environmental data and information from public and local, state, federal and tribal governments indicated that Iberdrola Renewable’s project would be too negatively impactful to the proposed area. The Silurian Valley is known as a largely undisturbed valley full of wildlife, as an important piece of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail and for its recreational and scenic values.

When the BLM announced its solar zone plan in 2012, PV Tech reported how even then organisations like the Sierra Club and First Solar spoke about the positives of developing large-scale solar but stressed the importance of minimising environmental and wildlife impact.

The BLM has approved 18 solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands in California since 2010. The Silurian Valley project is the first to be denied through the variance process.