A Record of Decision (ROD) recently signed by the Interior Secretary, David L. Bernhardt, has paved the way for the Gemini Solar Project to move forward. When completed, Gemini will be the largest solar power facility in the U.S. This solar and battery storage site, located in the Nevada desert, approximately 30 miles outside of Las Vegas, will sit on 7,000 acres of federal land (Bureau of Land Management).
This project has been in the works since 2017 by the California-based consortium, Solar Partners XI, which includes NV Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, working with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Gemini is estimated to cost $1 billion and have a 690-MW capacity with four large lithium-ion batteries capable of storing 380 MW. Construction of the first phase (440-MW capacity) is planned to begin in 2021 and will be used to support electricity needs in Nevada. The second phase (an additional 250-MW) is planned to begin in 2022 and is planned to be used to support the electricity needs of Nevada and California or Arizona.
The ROD approves a right-of-way grant for the project, along with authorization of 34.5-kV overhead and underground collector lines, a 2-acre operation and maintenance facility, three substations with internal access roads, and access roads along the generation tie-lines, a perimeter road, perimeter fencing, water storage tanks for fire protection, drainage control features, a potential on-site water well or a new water pipeline, and improvements to NV Energy’s existing grid interconnection facilities.
This project had been delayed for months, in part due to an extended environmental review that included a look at the project’s impact on historical areas, including a railroad camp on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, and the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, used by early settlers moving through the area from the 1830s to the 1860s. However, with the ROD signing, BLM and Solar Partners XI said they have “developed measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to other resources including, but not limited to, visual resources, cultural and tribal resources, recreation access, and air quality.”
In December 2019, NV Energy secured approval from the Nevada Public Utilities Commission for 1.20 GW of new solar projects with 590 MW of energy storage capacity – Gemini represents ~58% of these plans. NV Energy has already negotiated a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for Gemini, at a rate of $38.44/MWh – estimated to have a $712.5 Million economic impact.
The Gemini Solar Project marks the 3rd time the Bureau of Land Management has approved a solar power project on federal lands, during the Trump Administration. Previously they approved an 80-MW project in Wyoming (June 2018), and a 550-MW project near Joshua Tree National Park in California (November 2018).