The solar power sector is really heating up in the U.S. The Obama administration’s hectic policy moves are paying off as new projects get green lighted. In a major landmark move, the government approved what investors are dubbing the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant. In a single stroke, the plant will double U.S solar output.
The project in the Mojave Desert near Blythe, California will light up 300,000 homes. It is also the sixth project given the go-ahead on federal land in the last month. All approved projects are placed in the desert regions.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced –
“The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation’s renewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future.”
The plant uses parabolic mirrors to focus the sun’s energy onto collector tubes. Fluid in the tubes is then heated and sent to a boiler, which sends live steam to a turbine to produce electricity.
The plant will commence construction before the year’s end (that qualifies it for a 30 percent Treasury Department grant) and probably will begin operations by 2013. Construction costs are estimated at around $6 Billion. Developer Solar Millennium, a German company, says the plant will generate 1,066 construction jobs and 295 permanent jobs.
The Blythe plant will be followed by a seventh plant in California. All of the seven are expected to be online between 2011 and 2013. The seven projects would generate more than 3,000 megawatts of power and provide electricity for up to 2 million homes. The projects are expected to create more than 2,000 jobs during construction and several hundred permanent jobs.
Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group says –
“We’re finally going to see solar energy produced on public lands in the United States — and this is something the public wants.”
Wildlife concerns have also been addressed. The Interior Department stated that Solar Millennium will be required to “provide funding for more than 8,000 acres of desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat to mitigate the project’s impacts.”
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