Friday, September 17, 2010

Plans for huge California solar plant clear hurdle

UPDATE: Another solar energy project received approval in California, reports the Press-Enterprise. A 370-megawatt solar field in rural northeast San Bernardino County unanimously cleared the California Energy Commission, the latest in a string of projects on a fast track to qualify for federal stimulus money by the end of the year. Unlike the others, this development would displace a protected species, the desert tortoise, which is threatened with extinction.  The $2 billion project, located in the Ivanpah Valley near Primm, Nev., was approved over the objections of environmental groups and others, according to the Press-Enterprise.

The California Energy Commission approved what would be the world's largest solar plant Wednesday, perhaps paving the way for dramatic solar expansion in the U.S. The proposed $6 billion-plus Blythe, Calif., plant has a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, Sarah McBride of Reuters reports. "By comparison, for all of last year, the U.S. installed about 481 megawatts of solar energy, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association," McBride writes. "The largest solar plants to date are in the 200-350 megawatt range."

The Blythe plant would group four 250 megawatt plants, with the first expected to go online in 2013. The total projects has a projected $6 billion price tag, and Southern California Edison has already agreed to purchase the full capacity of the first two plants, McBride writes. The Blythe plant is one of nine solar facilities California regulators are trying to evaluate by the end of the year. As part of last year's stimulus package, "solar plants that begin construction before December 31 qualify for a Treasury Department grant totaling 30 percent of a project's cost," McBride writes.

If all nine plants gain approval they would create an additional 4,300 megawatts of solar energy, McBride writes, noting the bulk of the energy wouldn't go online until 2013. A spokesman for Solar Millennium, one of the plant's developers, said the project would create up to 1,004 construction jobs. Ferrostaal AG is also working with Solar Millennium through a U.S. joint venture, Solar Trust of America LLC. "The developers still need final approval from the Bureau of Land Management for use of public lands," McBride writes. "The BLM is scheduled to rule on the matter toward the end of next month." (Read more)

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