The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved on Oct. 5 the first large-scale solar energy plants ever to be built on U.S. public lands. The approval of two developments in California grants the U.S.-based companies behind the projects access to almost 6,800 acres of public lands for 30 years to build and operate solar plants.

The projects will employ two different types of solar energy technology. The Imperial Valley Solar Project, proposed by Tessera Solar of Texas, will use Stirling Energy System's SunCatcher technology (shown above) on 6,360 acres of public lands in Imperial County, California. The plant is expected to produce up to 709MW from 28,360 solar dishes, enough to power 212,700 to 531,750 homes. The Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions of California, will employ photovoltaic solar technology on 422 acres of public lands in San Bernardino County, California, and will produce up to 45 megawatts from 40,500 solar panels, enough to power 13,500 to 33,750 homes.

The approved plants could produce up to 754MW of renewable energy, or enough to power 226,000 to 566,000 typical U.S. homes. The projects will generate almost 1,000 new jobs.