U.S. Rejects Proposal for Solar Project in California Desert

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The U.S. Interior Department rejected a proposal to build a 200-megawatt solar farm in Southern California.

It’s the first time the agency’s Bureau of Land Management has denied a permit for a solar plant outside certain zones that have been designated as preferred locations for solar power, the administration said yesterday in a statement.

Iberdrola SA’s plan to build the photovoltaic power plant in California’s Silurian Valley would have had negative impacts on wildlife and recreational activity that “could not be mitigated,” according to the statement.

Iberdrola’s renewable energy unit is disappointed in the decision and is considering whether to appeal within the 30 days allowed by BLM, said Paul Copleman, a spokesman.

“We have a viable project that we thought addressed some of the biological and visual concerns it might have,” Copleman said today in an interview. “This was the first time anyone tried developing in a variance area. We still hope to be able to move forward.”

An environmental group hailed the decision. “Silurian Valley is simply not suitable for this type of large scale development,” Sally Miller, a spokeswoman for The Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

The project was given extra scrutiny by the administration because it fell outside the almost 284,918 acres of solar energy zones designated as preferred locations for development in 2012. The BLM has approved 18 wind, solar and geothermal power plants on public lands in California since 2010.

“It’s an undisturbed wilderness area between two national parks,” said Dana Wilson, a spokeswoman for the BLM in Sacramento, which is currently reviewing proposals for six additional solar farms in the state.

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