California -- The energy developer and project owner NextEra Energy Resources got the green light from the California Energy Commission (CEC) this week to build a $1 billion, 250 MW concentrating solar power plant in the state. It's the first time in 20 years that a project of its kind has gotten approval.
The Beacon Solar Energy project will consist of about 2,000 acres of parabolic troughs. NextEra is expecting it to come online in the next three years. The approval of the project is great news for NextEra, which will rush to break ground before the federal grant program expires at the end of the year. The project will be built and operated by NextEra's subsidiary, Beacon Power.
Other developers like Brightsource and Abengoa with similar projects in or near the Mojave Desert are also waiting for the go-ahead at the CEC. They're hoping to get enough lead time to break ground before the close of the year.
While environmental concerns have mounted over water and land-intensive CSP projects like this one (the project requires over 450 million gallons of water per year for cooling), California regulators and utilities have been eager to get the projects moving in order to meet the state's renewable energy targets. Most analysts believe that California will not be able to meet the 20% target by the end of this year.
The next step will be for Beacon so sign a power purchase agreement. When that happens, development can truly begin.
Seemingly all the major energy companies are getting into CSP. French nuclear giant Areva was one such company. To hear Areva's view of what it takes to develop a successful project, watch the interview below.