The Interior Department [Friday] advanced a solar energy project in southern Nevada that could be the first of many commercial-scale renewable energy proposals in the next few years on Native American lands.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs released the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Southern Bighorn Solar Project, which would include two photovoltaic power plants on about 3,600 acres on a Moapa Band of Paiute Indians reservation northeast of Las Vegas.
The total project would have the capacity to produce about 400 megawatts of electricity — enough to power roughly 120,000 homes — and include battery storage that would allow it to feed electricity to the power grid long after the sun sets.
BIA is working with the Bureau of Land Management, which must approve issuing a right-of-way grant for transmission lines that are proposed to connect the solar project to an existing substation across a BLM-managed utility corridor. Developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands has been a goal since the Obama administration to not only increase clean energy, but to also boost economic opportunities in Native American communities.
The Southern Bighorn Solar Project is proposed to be built on the Moapa River Indian Reservation by Los Angeles-based 8minute Solar Energy. The reservation is already home to the first-ever commercial-scale solar project built on tribal lands — the 250-MW Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, which opened in 2017 and was one of 36 solar projects approved by the Obama administration.
There is great potential for renewables development on tribal lands. The Energy Department in 2015 estimated that solar projects on tribal reservations could produce up to 17,000 MW of electricity — enough to power nearly 6 million homes.