Solar project advances despite objections

By David Danelski, The Press-Enterprise

To the consternation of some environmentalists, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Friday it had eliminated a quarter of the proposed Soda Mountain Solar project but will allow most of its construction on nearly 2,000 acres near Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. The Soda Mountain Solar Project, planned for public land in San Bernardino County next to the Mojave National Preserve, has been opposed by environmentalists for years.

The Bureau of Land Management approved the final environmental study for the project, a key step in the process that allows the project to receive final approval in 30 days.

The BLM reduced the project’s size from 4 square miles to 3, but said the smaller footprint still would allow the developers to install enough photovoltaic panels to power an estimated 79,000 homes, helping California to meet its renewable energy goals.

A press statement by the land management agency said the now 264 MW project is being made smaller to address concerns about its effect on the bighorn sheep that travel through the area about 6 miles from Baker. Eliminating an array of solar panels originally planned for a site north of Interstate 15 also protects scenic vistas and ensures that the project will not be seen from most parts of the nearby Mojave National Preserve.

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