WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Tuesday it had given the go-ahead for two major solar projects on federal land in the California desert by pushing ahead with clean energy plans leveraging federal authority after Joe Manchin III , the West Virginia senator and coal industry supporter, said this week he would not support broader climate legislation, and would suspend it in Congress.
The two approved solar projects, and a third nearing approval, would generate about 1,000 megawatts, enough electricity to power about 132,000 homes, the interior ministry said. All three projects are in Riverside County, California.
The project approvals are important because they represent one of a limited number of policy tools available to the Biden administration as it works to wean the United States from fossil fuels and achieve a goal of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. to be reduced by about half.
Democrats have vowed to move forward with a vote on President Biden’s signature policy agenda, the Build Back Better Act, which includes $555 billion in clean energy tax credits. But the measure is not expected to be passed, given Mr Manchin’s statement this week announcing his opposition.
Without that legislation, Mr. Biden will be left with executive actions to move his agenda forward. But that authority also faces challenges. In February, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case brought by coal companies and Republican-led states to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
“All bets are off on this Supreme Court,” John Podesta, a former top aide to President Barack Obama, said during a recent panel discussion on climate change. “It is certainly a challenge.”
The solar farms approved Tuesday are known as the Arica and Victory Pass projects. According to the Interior Ministry, they will be solar photovoltaic projects and will generate a total of up to 465 megawatts of electricity with up to 400 megawatts of battery storage. The combined projects would cost about $689 million to build, according to the agency, calling them an “infrastructure investment.”
The Bureau of Land Management is also expected to approve a separate 500-megawatt photovoltaic plan known as the Oberon solar project in the coming days. Located on 2,700 acres of public land in Riverside County, it is expected to generate 500 megawatts of renewable energy and power nearly 142,000 homes, the agency said.
“The efficient deployment of renewable energy projects will create high-paying jobs and is critical to achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of having a zero-carbon energy sector by 2035,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the Bureau of Land management. , said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the agency also said it sparked interest in large-scale solar development on nearly 90,000 acres of public land within what it called solar zones in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. In addition to eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the electricity sector by 2035, Mr. Biden has pledged to cut emissions in the United States by at least 52 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade.