Washington, DC - U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced today the site of the new Solar Demonstration Zone to demonstrate cutting-edge solar energy technologies. The Solar Demonstration Zone will be located in the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site, a former nuclear site, on lands owned by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and administered by DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration. Secretaries Chu and Salazar signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding that will enable the Department of Energy to develop innovative solar energy projects at the Nevada Test Site. These projects will serve as proving grounds for new solar technologies, providing a critical link between DOE's advanced technology development and full-scale commercialization efforts.
"The Nevada Test Site is about to play a new role in securing America's future - but instead of testing nuclear weapons, we will test new solar technologies that will help put America on a sustainable energy path," said Secretary Chu. "Working closely with the Department of Interior, and with the critical leadership of Senator Reid, we will demonstrate technologies that will lower the cost of solar energy, accelerate the pace of innovation, and help build a clean energy economy."
"President Obama is committed to developing our nation's new energy frontier, including the promising area of advanced solar energy," Secretary Salazar said. "Our Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 23 million acres of Southwestern lands with solar potential, plays an important role in supporting the President's renewable energy goals. These projects on BLM land in Nevada can significantly reduce the costs and environmental impacts of utility-scale solar power facilities and demonstrate the commercial viability of these facilities. Thanks to Senator Reid's leadership, Nevada is ready to jump-start these projects, put people to work, and create more clean power."
"I am very pleased, but not surprised, that Nevada has been chosen as the site for this cutting-edge project," said Reid. "Nevada stands to be the leader in solar power production and technology development, especially with this kind of positive support from our federal partners. I am working on additional policies in the Senate to enhance Nevada's economy and create jobs through the production and export of clean renewable energy. The Nevada Test Site can and should be a proving ground for new ideas and for attracting new clean energy industries that will help our state and country compete globally."
Under the agreement, the federal government is dedicating more than 25 square miles to solar energy research - an area larger than Manhattan. DOE will use the site to demonstrate innovative Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies. CSP systems concentrate the sun's energy and capture that energy as heat, which then drives an engine or turbine to produce electrical power. The Solar Demonstration Zone will complement BLM's establishment of 24 Solar Energy Study Areas (SESAs) on public lands across the U.S. Southwest by helping to ensure that the most advanced CSP technologies are ready for commercial deployment. Plans are underway to create a new DOE funding opportunity for demonstration projects at the Nevada Test Site that will include matching investments from the private sector.
DOE selected this site after reviewing 26 possible locations, evaluating factors including solar conditions, suitable terrain, and existing infrastructure to support solar projects. In addition to collaborating with each other, BLM and DOE are working in close coordination with the U.S. Air Force to identify and address potential problems with locating and operating the Solar Demonstration Zone at the Nevada Test Site. DOI and DOE will continue to collaborate with the Air Force and the Department of Defense. The site will serve as a test bed for other solar projects proposed near military installations throughout the desert southwest.
Before selecting the site for the Solar Demonstration Zone, the federal government consulted with relevant stakeholders, including state, tribal, and local governments, as well as local utilities. Under the interagency agreement, DOE and DOI will continue collaborating to effectively implement the project, including working together to conduct environmental reviews, make any land status adjustments, and coordinate necessary infrastructure planning on the site.
Read a version of the complete Memorandum of Understanding (pdf - 136kb).