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The push to transition from carbon-emitting fuel sources to renewable energy is hitting a roadblock in Nevada, where solar power developers are abandoning plans to build what would have been the United States’ largest array of solar panels in the desert north of Las Vegas.

“Battle Born Solar Project” developers this week withdrew their application with the federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Moapa Valley hilltop where the panels were planned, KLAS-TV Las Vegas reported.

California-based Arevia Power told the television station that its solar panels would be set far enough back on Mormon Mesa to not be visible from the valley. But a group of residents organized as “Save Our Mesa” argued such a large installation would be an eyesore and could curtail the area’s popular recreational activities – biking, ATVs and skydiving – and deter tourists from visiting sculptor Michael Heizer’s land installation, “Double Negative.”

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Solar Partners VII LLC, another California firm involved in the project, submitted a letter to the Bureau of Land Management saying it intended to withdraw its application “in response to recent communication” with the agency, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The proposed plant would have spanned more than 14 square miles (37 square kilometres) atop the scenic mesa and had an 850 megawatt capacity – roughly one-tenth of Nevada’s total capacity and enough to provide daytime energy to 500,000 homes, according to the company.

The stalled project presents a setback for the Western state, which aims to transition to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and currently generates roughly 28% of its utility-scale electricity from renewables.

Gov. Steve Sisolak sent a letter to federal officials in 2020 requesting they fast-track the project.

Although a majority of the state’s voters approved an energy transition ballot question last year, large-scale projects like Battle Born Solar have drawn backlash from conservationists, endangered species advocates and local businesses that cater to tourists.

Nevada fulfills most of its energy needs using natural gas plants or through importing power produced elsewhere. But developers have rapidly scaled up their investments in solar and geothermal in the windswept lands north of Las Vegas, where sunshine and open land are abundant.

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