Bureau of Land Management Solar Energy Program Western Solar Plan
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Riverside East

The Riverside East Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) is located in California on BLM-administered land within the Palm Springs South Coast Field Office.

Development Status

Five projects had been authorized within or partially within the SEZ as of November 2018. These are:

  • McCoy FPL Energy, 5,440 acres, 750 MW photovoltaic (PV) facility
  • Blythe Solar Power Project, 4,313 acres, 485 MW PV facility
  • Genesis Solar, 1,952 acres, 250 MW parabolic trough facility
  • Desert Harvest, 1,198 acres, 150 MW PV facility
  • Palen Solar, 5,160 acres, 500 MW PV facility

The combined area of these authorized applications within the SEZ is about 18,063 acres (73 km2), about 12% of the SEZ developable area.

As of November 2018, there were two remaining pending applications located within or partially within the Riverside East SEZ — the Desert Quartzite project, a 300 MW PV facility with a proposed area of 4,900 acres; and the Crimson Solar project, a 350 MW PV facility with a proposed area of 2,700 acres. In September 2019, the BLM issued the Final EIS/Environmental Impact Report and amended the California Desert Conservation Area land use plan to authorize the Desert Quartzite project.

Size and Location

The Riverside East SEZ is the largest of the SEZs. In the Draft Solar PEIS the proposed total area of the SEZ was 202,896 acres (821 km2). In the Supplement to the Draft, 43,439 acres (176 km2) in the northwest portion of the SEZ were eliminated to reduce impacts on Joshua Tree National Park. In addition, 11,547 acres (46.7 km2) within the SEZ boundaries were identified as non-development areas. The remaining developable area within the SEZ is 147,910 acres (598.6 km2). No additional changes to the SEZ developable area were made in the Final Solar PEIS.

The Riverside East SEZ is located in Riverside County in southeastern California, within Chuckwalla Valley, the southern portion of Palen Valley, and the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA). The eastern boundary of the site is about 6 mi (10 km) west of the Arizona border. The revised western boundary is approximately 0.7 mi (1 km) from Joshua Tree National Park. In 2008, the county population was 84,443. The closest large cities are Moreno Valley, San Bernardino, and Riverside (all located slightly more than 100 mi [161 km] west of the SEZ on I-10).

Riverside East SEZ (western portion)
(Does not show non-development areas identified in the Solar PEIS.)
Riverside East (west) Corn Spring Road Chevron T Line Road BLM Corner Desert Center Eagle Mountain Road Rt 177 Shale Bench Rt 177 BLM Road Kaiser Road

Riverside East SEZ (eastern portion)
(Does not show non-development areas identified in the Solar PEIS.)
Riverside East (east) Midland LTVA Midland Rice Road McCoy Wash Desert Pavement Cultural Gravel Bench I 10 Wiley Well Road South Wiley Well Rest Stop Ford Dry Lake

Physical Characteristics

Flat basins form broad expanses of barren plains in the Riverside East SEZ. Much of the SEZ consists of flats with widely spaced creosote bushes and other low shrubs, but there are also dry lake beds, sandy areas, and dry washes with ironwood and other trees. Some areas are devoid or nearly devoid of vegetation.

In addition to I-10, State Route 177, and Midland Road, several gravel and dirt roads cross the SEZ. Transmission lines also cross the SEZ. An abandoned railroad runs through the eastern portion. The Midland Long Term Visitor Area is also located on the east side of the SEZ.

While the lands to the north and west of the SEZ are generally undeveloped mountains, the lands to the southeast are agricultural, and there is development along I-10 just south of the SEZ, though areas south of the SEZ beyond I-10 are generally undeveloped. The small town of Desert Center is located at the far southwestern edge of the SEZ, along Interstate 10 (I-10). There are ranches, homes, and associated structures located on private lands near the SEZ, as well as local roads and airstrips. Scattered tanks and other structures associated with ranching and farming are visible from the SEZ, as well as the abandoned Eagle Mountain Mine and Ironwood State Prison.

Photo of the Riverside East SEZ

Technical Suitability

I-10 runs east-west along the southern boundary of the SEZ, State Route 177 runs north-south through the western section, and Midland Road crosses the northeastern portion of the SEZ. U.S. 95 runs north-south about 3 mi (5 km) from the eastern boundary of the SEZ.

An existing 500‑kV transmission line runs east-west along I-10 and parallel to the southern SEZ boundary. In addition, a 230‑kV line passes through the far western section of the SEZ, a 69‑kV line passes through the eastern portion of the SEZ, along with other transmission lines.

Updated: 10/22/2020