DOE announces first clean energy project for INL

June 10, 2024, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
The Materials and Fuels Complex at INL. (Photo: INL)

The Department of Energy will enter into lease negotiations with two solar energy developers for 400 megawatts of solar electricity generation within the Idaho National Laboratory site. Announced on June 5, the projects are the first proposed projects selected under the department’s Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative, an effort to repurpose parts of DOE-owned lands—portions of which were previously used in the nation’s nuclear weapons program—into sites of clean-energy generation, including for solar, geothermal, wind, and nuclear.

“Tens of thousands of acres of DOE-owned land across the nation are being transformed into thriving centers of carbon-free power generation,” said DOE secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm. “Working closely with community leaders and private sector partners, we’re cleaning up land once used in our nuclear deterrence programs and deploying the clean energy solutions we need to help save the planet and strengthen our energy independence.”

Additional carbon-free energy projects at other DOE cleanup sites will be announced by the department this year. The DOE said it also plans to open subsequent requests for qualifications for the INL site to solicit additional generation-ready clean energy projects for the land that remains available.

The projects: The DOE said it expects NorthRenew Energy Partners and Spitfire to deploy hundreds of new megawatts of carbon-free electricity to the grid at the DOE’s INL site:

NorthRenew Energy Partners proposes to install photovoltaics along with battery storage to produce more than 300 MW of electricity on approximately 2,000 acres of land.

Spitfire proposes to install photovoltaics along with battery storage to produce 100 MW of carbon-free electricity on approximately 500 acres of land.

Before the leases for the development of the proposed photovoltaic projects are issued, the department and applicants will undergo a negotiation process. The DOE said it may cancel negotiations and rescind the selection for any reason during that time.

The initiative: The DOE launched the Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative in July 2023 to help achieve President Biden’s climate goals and the directive in Executive Order 14057 for agencies to use their properties for the development of new clean electricity generation. That order, issued in December 2021, sets requirements for federal agencies to reduce their impact on the environment and to reduce the impact of climate change.

Under the initiative, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, Office of Nuclear Energy, and National Nuclear Security Administration have identified about 35,000 acres of land for potential development at five sites, including INL, the Hanford Site in Washington state, the Nevada National Security Site, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. The DOE indicated that additional land may become available for further development in the future.

Robert Seifert, DOE-EM acting director of the Office of Infrastructure Disposition and Regulatory Policy, discussed the Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative during a June 4 session of the Radwaste Summit meeting in Louisville, Ky. “We have some really broad statutory authority to be able to make this happen from a realty perspective, we have this land, and we have the authority to move it out into the communities,” he said.

Seifert said that the DOE was on track to enter into realty agreements to develop the identified land by the end of September. “Once that goes in, the real work begins,” he said, adding that the planning and engineering activities, along with the necessary regulatory reviews, will start after the leases are signed.

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