US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar yesterday approved theconstruction of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant withan overall capacity of 1,000MW. in the Mojave desert near Blythe,California.
The 7,025-acre Blythe Solar Power Project will nearly double thecountry’s solar power output and will power around 300,000 homes,besides saving save one million tons of carbon dioxide per year, it isclaimed.
It is the first approval by the US Department of the Interior for a parabolic trough power plant on US public land.
“The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation’srenewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends tocompete and lead in the technologies of the future,” said Ken Salazar.
Solar Millennium will be in charge of developing the project and hassigned a purchase agreement with Southern California Edison (SEC) backin July.
Construction of the $6 billion plant is expected to start at the endof 2010 with production estimated to start in 2013. Solar Millenium says the construction phase will generate 1,066 jobs while the plant willemploy 295 people permanently.
In terms of environmental impact, the project has caused concernsover the impact it will have on local wildlife. The Mojave Desert ishome to the threatened desert tortoise, bighorn sheep and other animals. Other projects in the region have met with fiercer resistance over suchconcerns.
Projected solar power growth
Concomitant to this announcement, Bloomberg New Energy Finance issued a report saying that solar may meet 4.2 per cent of American electricity supplies by2020 thanks to lower costs that make investments more attractive. Costof thermal and photovoltaic has fallen to less than $200 permegawatt-hour.
The report estimates that $100 billion in investment over the nextdecade would increase capacity from 1,400MW today to 44,000MW.
Commercial use of solar power will account for half of theinstallation, with the rest split between residential rooftops andutility scale plants.
The report also estimates that solar will be powering 2.4 per cent of households by 2020.