The US Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have granted the final approval for what they say will be the largest solar-power project in the U.S., a $1 billion installation in Nevada that could power about 260,000 households—enough to cover the residential population of Las Vegas. The land proposed for the 690 MW Gemini solar project is on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

In addition to topping the list as the largest solar project in the U.S., Gemini includes 380 MW of battery storage, part of a trend of mega-solar projects coming with significant storage attached. The project is being developed by Arevia Power, a California-based company run by SunEdison alums, and investment manager Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners.

Among the concerns was the project’s visual impact on an historic railroad camp, as well as the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. Those issues have been mitigated. New methods of working with native vegetation and wildlife are also being implemented. Located in the Nevada desert, the Gemini site overlaps with habitat of endangered or threatened species including the desert tortoise, kit fox and burrowing owl. During construction of the project, the government plans to move some desert tortoises before returning them back to the area once construction is complete. The decision approved a right-of-way grant for the Gemini project and authorized solar facilities that include:

  • 34.5 kV overhead and underground collector lines
  • A 2-acre operation and maintenance facility
  • Three substations
  • Internal access roads, access roads along 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 pipeline
  • Improvements to the existing NV Energy facilities to support interconnection.

The two-phase project is anticipated to be completed as early as 2022. It will serve NV Energy, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, as the utility works to meet Nevada’s state requirement for 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and 100 per cent clean energy by 2050. The power would feed Las Vegas and potentially additional areas in Southern California. The project would become the eighth-largest solar plant in the world, according to the DOI’s statement.