^Standing in the Amargosa Desert near Lathrop Wells, Nye County, Nevada, one can look northeast into the Nevada National Security Site hills. The Solar Demonstration Site would be on a valley floor to the left in the far distance.

Department of Energy Project

November 5, 2010 - At a scoping meeting in Amargosa Valley, we learned the details of how DOE is in the process of working through an Environmental Assessment for a 300 acre plot of land on the Nevada National Security Site (the Nevada Test Site), southwest edge of Area 25 for research and development of "innovative solar technologies." These would include concentrated solar thermal (parabolic trough, power tower, and Stirling dish), photovoltaic, and concentrated photovoltaic technologies.

A joint Memorandum of Understanding was signed by DOE Secretary Chu, whose department would run the Solar Demonstration Project under the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, because the land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Such experimental technologies as molten salt or new types of heating oil in parabolic trough receiver tubes would be tested, in single loops or perhaps complete working systems. Scalability would be demonstrated.

The land is unused desert currently, and would be on the boundary of the NNSS, and could hook up with existing Valley Electric transmission lines. But the project would be only for research and development, no power would be exported.

Water requirements would apparently be relatively low, 8 to 20 acre-feet per year, although his is yet to be determined. DOE representatives told us that hydrological studies show 800 acre-feet are available in this drainage, so impacts would be light. We note, however, that the Amargosa Valley drainage, which this drainage connects to, is in overdraft. Potable water and water for dust control would be trucked in, possibly from wells on other parts of the NNSS. Additional water would be also obtained from existing wells owned by Nye County near the town of Lathrop Wells by Highway 95. No new wells would need to be drilled, nor would any existing water rights need to be retired.

30 to 40 workers at a time would be on site. We asked about potential radioactive blowing dust hazards from nearby nuclear testing. A nuclear rocket testing site lies 13 miles away in Area 25, where in the 1960s atomic blasts were contained in rocket engines for propulsion experiments, but the project was halted by President Kennedy. DOE personnel told us this would not pose a threat to workers at the Solar Demonstration Area, as this rocket site was being cleaned up, buildings were being taken apart and transported to Area 5 radioactive waste spot. DOE is actively cleaning up nuclear test structures.

The federal government has allocated $500 million for this Solar Demonstration Area project, and applicant companies can participate in cost-sharing, kicking in some of their own money, to be able to use the site. Applications will be solicited.

The Draft Environmental Assessment will be available in March or April 2011.

Public Comments

You may send comments by December 6, 2010, to NNSA Nevada Site Office, Environmental Assessment Comments, PO Box 98518, Las Vegas NV 89193-8518. Also email to sdpea@nv.doe.gov.

For more information see http://solar.energy.gov






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