- The Bureau of Land Management gave the final go-ahead Wednesday for construction to begin on the 2,600-acre Oberon Solar Project in Southern California. Oberon Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Beaverton, Oregon-based Intersect Power, will build it on BLM-managed land near Desert Center in eastern Riverside County.
- The Oberon project will produce enough energy to power 146,000 homes and create 750 union construction jobs, BLM said in a press release.
- The project is part of a BLM and state partnership to create a 22.5-million-acre renewable energy zone over seven counties in the Mojave and Colorado deserts. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan aims to streamline clean energy development in balance with desert ecosystem conservation and recreation, though the Oberon build has proven controversial with some environmentalists.
The 500-megawatt Oberon Solar Project is one of three Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan projects the Department of the Interior announced in December 2021, which will together produce 1 gigawatt of power. The plan comprises 10.8 million acres of public lands and designates 388,000 acres of “development focus areas” as suitable for commercial-scale renewable energy projects. DOI also approved the Arica and Victory Pass photovoltaic solar projects in the zone last year, which will together cost $689 million to build, according to the New York Times.
More broadly, the BLM said in the release it is currently processing 64 utility-scale onshore solar, wind and geothermal projects proposed for public lands in the Western U.S., which if built, would together produce 41 gigawatts of renewable energy.
The Oberon project is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to modernize power infrastructure out West and permit 25 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal energy on public lands by 2025, to advance its larger goal to eliminate carbon emissions from the electric sector by 2035.
Construction on the Oberon project began on July 11, with an estimated completion date of September 2023, said BLM's California Desert District Public Affairs Officer Kate Miyamoto in an email.