The U.S. Department of the Interior approved the construction of the U.S. largest “Gemini” solar project in Nevada to date with a cost of approximately $ 1 billion. After the project is completed, it is expected to become the eighth largest solar power station in the world. While meeting the power supply, the project can also inject new impetus into the local economy hit by the epidemic.

The project will be built in the desert area of ​​Nevada, and has attracted criticism from environmentalists that it may threaten local species.

[Push local employment]

The US Department of the Interior announced on the 11th that it will build photovoltaic solar power installations and auxiliary facilities with a total capacity of 690 megawatts approximately 48 kilometers northeast of Las Vegas.

The statement said that after the project is completed, it will provide sufficient power supply to approximately 260,000 households in the Las Vegas area and southern California, and the annual power generation is expected to offset the annual greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 83,000 vehicles.

US Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said that at the peak of the project construction, up to 900 construction jobs can be provided. It is expected that 19 long-term construction workers will be retained on the project site, while driving the local community to create approximately 1,100 jobs.

Bernhardt said that this project is expected to inject about $ 712.5 million into the local economy when the nationwide nation tries to recover from the impact of the epidemic. “Our economic recovery depends on the resumption of production and production in the United States, and this project can achieve that goal.”

The Associated Press reported that the first phase of the “Gemini” solar project will occupy approximately 28 square kilometers of federal land and is expected to be completed next year to deliver 440 megawatts of power to Nevada. The second phase of the project is expected to add 250 MW of generating capacity. The additional power will be sold in Nevada in 2022 or delivered to Arizona and California. The project includes a 380 MW AC battery storage system that can continue to deliver power after the sun sets.

This project is a joint venture between Australia’s “Quinbrook Infrastructure Partnership” and California’s “Arevia Power Company” and is part of a comprehensive resource plan developed by Nevada Energy. The plan was approved by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission last year. Nevada Energy Corporation is a well-known investor named Warren Buffett.

【Specified threatened species】

Abigail Rose Hopper, chairman and chief executive officer of the American Solar Energy Industry Association, praised the “Gemini” solar project “for bringing jobs and private investment to the most demanding states.” But according to the Associated Press, many environmentalists believe that this project may destroy the environment in which the desert gopher tortoise depends.

The desert gopher tortoise, also known as the desert tortoise, is a larger tortoise living in a remote area of ​​the United States. They usually inhabit a dry environment with cacti and thorny plants, and can dig deep into caves as hiding places.

It is reported that some environmental protection organizations in the United States have lobbied the Bureau of Land Management under the Ministry of the Interior for many years, hoping to allow the project to be built elsewhere, but to no avail.

Kevin Emerici, a director of an environmental organization, said on the 11th: “We believe that solar energy has incredible benefits, but if you put it in the wrong place, it may become the worst thing for the environment. “He believes that the solar project may not lead to the extinction of the desert gopher tortoise, but will seriously threaten its survival.”

Laura Cunningham, a biologist working at another environmental organization, pointed out that in addition to the desert gopher tortoise, the solar project is also home to two rare astragalus plants and animals and plants such as minfox and cave owl. The area is rich in biological soil crusts, which could have absorbed a lot of carbon, but this soil is now being levelled by solar projects.

In response to opposition from environmentalists, Bernhardt acknowledged that the project will have negative consequences on the desert gopher tortoise habitat, but “overall, the benefits of large-scale renewable energy production and battery storage capacity outweigh the benefits to the desert gopher tortoise. Impact”.