solar thermal electric

World’s largest solar power site gets green light

The California Energy Commission has approved the construction and operation of four solar-thermal power plants with a planned overall capacity of around 1,000 megawatts (MW) at the Blythe location in California (US). The project site was developed by Solar Millennium LLC, Oakland, the US project development company within the Solar Millennium Group.

At 1 GW, the total capacity of the planned solar power plants at this location is thus approximately equal to the turbine output of a nuclear power plant or a big modern coal fired power plant and, the developers claim, is the largest solar power site in the world.

Solar Millennium intends to begin the initial construction on two of four plants overall in 2010. The conclusion of the approval process is expected to come in October with the decision by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

"Once the first two plants are connected to the grid in 2013 and 2014, we will have implemented the Desertec idea in California,” said Thomas Mayer, Spokesman of the Executive Board of Solar Millennium AG. “With solar power plants in the California desert, we will be able to supply Los Angeles and other metropolitan cities on the American west coast with environmentally friendly electricity”.

“The financing for the first two solar power plants is also scheduled to come to a close in autumn, which will include loan guarantees and grants by the US government. The investment volumes of more than $1 billion per plant make this one of the largest infrastructure projects in the US at the moment," Mayer further explained.

The four power plants together would supply an annual electricity volume of approximately 2,200 gigawatt hours and thereby save roughly two million tons of carbon dioxide each year. The power purchase agreements between Solar Millennium LLC, Oakland, and the American energy provider Southern California Edison (SCE) for the first two 242-MW solar power plants initially scheduled to be built were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in July. The contract regulates the purchase of electricity produced by the power plants via SCE for 20 years after the start of operations.

Commenting on the news, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the California Energy Commission's decision to approve the construction of the Blythe Solar Power Project, saying: “projects like this need our immediate attention, as solar and renewable power are the future of the California economy”.

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