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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Progress Report 2011:
Compliance & Stewardship

Renewable Energy Projects Get a Close Look

New solar power installations are generating more clean power in the Pacific Southwest every year. Before construction starts, each must be scrutinized to minimize environmental impacts.

In 2010, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Environmental Review Office Energy Team staff reviewed 50 detailed plans for 39 energy projects, sending comments back to the authorizing agencies on how best to minimize impacts. Several of these reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) included site visits and meetings with the federal and state agencies involved.

Under NEPA, when a federal agency makes a decision with significant environmental impacts – such as approving a right-of-way to build an energy project – the agency must first publish a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. EPA reviews it, and returns it with suggestions on how to avoid or mitigate the impacts. These comments become part of the public record.

The 39 proposed energy projects EPA reviewed in the Pacific Southwest last year included 20 solar, 7 wind, 2 geothermal, 2 hydroelectric, 1 carbon sequestration, 1 coal, 3 transmission lines, and 3 other renewable energy projects.

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EPA’s comments helped bring about improvements such as:

  • Switching the 250-megawatt (MW) Genesis Solar project from wet to dry cooling, reducing water use nearly 90%.
  • Reconfiguring the 709-MW Imperial Valley Solar project to reduce impacts on wetlands (including ephemeral streams) from 177 to 38 acres.
  • More mitigation for impacts to the threatened desert tortoise at the 45-MW Lucerne Valley Solar project.
  • Considering reduced acreage alternatives for the 400-MW Ivanpah Solar project.
  • Planning two transmission lines together in the Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP-South) corridor, rather than in separate corridors.

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