Image Credit: First Solar,Inc.

The first large-scale solar array built on public federal lands began producing electricity Monday, ten months after construction crews broke ground on the project. Named “Silver State Solar North”, the plant went live with the assistance of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who hailed it as “a landmark for America, a landmark for the solar industry and a landmark for how we use public lands.”

Located on 600 acres of federal land near Primm, Nevada, Silver State Solar North is comprised of 800,000 solar panels with the capacity to generate 50 megawatts of electricity. Once fully online it will produce 122,000 megawatt hours annually, providing enough energy to power 9,000 homes in Nevada. NV Energy (Nevada’s electric utility company) has agreed to purchase the electricity generated by the plant for the next 25 years. It was built by First Solar Inc. of Arizona and is owned by Canada-based energy company Enbridge.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Salazar said that there are currently 29 proposals to develop renewable energy projects on federal public lands, including 16 already-approved solar arrays. Once all 29 are completed, they are expected to produce enough electricity to power nearly 2.3 million homes. The project in Primm is part of President Obama’s “all of the above” (PDF) energy strategy, which calls on U.S. utilities and investors to do everything it can to increase the nation’s energy security.

Watching the federal government back up its public interest in renewable energy projects is encouraging, given how hard it is sometimes for energy companies, landowners, environmentalists, and regulatory committees to move forward on them. Hopefully this is a sign that we will be seeing more alt-energy projects come online as the process gets easier to work through.