Monday, February 27, 2012

Solar Farms on former Nuclear Test Sites

In 2010, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced an agreement to turn 25-square miles of the former Nevada Nuclear Test Site into a Solar Demonstration Zone.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu shake on Solar Zone agreement, to the delight of Senator Harry Reid, back row center. July 8, 2010 (Photo courtesy DOI)
The new solar test site will be on lands owned by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management and administered by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

The agreement authorizes the DOE to supervise such land use, including permits, rights-of-way and leases.

The Energy Department selected this site after reviewing 26 possible locations, evaluating factors including solar conditions, suitable terrain, and existing infrastructure to support solar projects. Stakeholders, including state, tribal, and local governments, as well as local utilities, were consulted.

The Energy Department is creating a new funding opportunity for demonstration projects at the Nevada Test Site that will include matching investments from the private sector.

End 2010, Nevada Senator Harry Reid announced $50 million in funding for the Solar Demonstration Zone at the Nevada National Security Site. 

The $50 million announcement followed an announcement of seven other sites in Nevada for inclusion in a proposed program to improve and accelerate permitting for commercial solar energy development.  The seven zones identified in the study are: Amargosa Valley, Delamar Valley, Dry Lake, Dry Lake North Valley, East Mormon Mountain, Gold Point and Miller's. Together, the zones comprise nearly 200,000 acres, which could produce several thousand megawatts of clean power.

Obtaining permits is a major step in the establishment of solar farms and problems in obtaining the necessary permits can delay such projects for years. As the number of projects on such sites grows, they can share transmission lines carrying electricity to major urban centers, which will bring down their costs.

As part of DOE and the DOI's continuing collaboration, the departments are working together to implement this project, including conducting environmental reviews and coordinating necessary infrastructure planning for the site. See the listing or the full Notice of Intent on FedConnect. Responses will be due by March 30, 2011.

The Nevada National Security Site is located close to Las Vegas, from where the power grid connects to Los Angeles and beyond.

The total site is 3,500 km2 large (about 1,350 square miles), so there's plenty of space for solar farms. By comparison, the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm occupies 9.5 square miles.
David, who earlier wrote about the project at Gather, has also started a Facebook group on the project at!/groups/274093479297600/ and created an online petition calling for more solar farms at the site. 
Sam Carana: To clean up the site, it may be possible to utilize biochar -- along with specialized natural fungi like the ones that have been growing prolifically around the Chernobyl plant in Russia, to soak up the ionizing radiation from radionuclides that are in the soil.

I wrote about this in a April 7, 2011 comment under my post Biochar See also this
CBC News report

The desert conditions at this site would normally prevent such fungi to grow, but there's a better chance to get this going if moist is retained within the biochar under the shade of solar panels. The fungi appear to quickly absorb radiation, and could be harvested, for storage at Yucca Flat at the National Security Site.

This could deliver some cleaning up of part of the site. It could also provide a valuable research and testing opportunity to gain experience with methods for cleaning up contaminated sites all around the world, methods to bring vegetation into deserts and the capacity for biochar to sequester carbon dioxide for prolonged periods in desert conditions.

Above post and comment were originally added by Sam Carana at Gather on Feb 27 and 28, 2012.

Newswire report

Online petition

DOE $50 million for competitive solar technologies creates solar energy zones

Department of Energy - solar demonstration memorandum of understanding

Department of Energy - solar demostration

More by Sam Carana:

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