Promoting Solar Energy

Encouraging the rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on United States public lands is a significant part of President Barack Obama’s energy policy. An important step towards that goal was taken recently with the launching of the Ivanpah Electric Generating System, an innovative “power tower” project in San Bernardino County, California.

“Ivanpah is an outstanding example of the progress we are making in building a renewable energy economy,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Mr. Salazar took part in groundbreaking ceremonies along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, and representatives of the developer of the project, BrightSource Energy. Using thermal solar technology, the Ivanpah project will generate 1000 construction jobs and provide 370 megawatts of clean, renewable energy for up to 270,500 homes.

Ivanpah is one of six large-scale solar energy projects approved recently by the Secretary of the Interior as part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to the production of renewable energy on lands administered by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. Combined, the six projects would produce 2,837 megawatts of energy, enough to power from 850,000 to over 2 million homes, as well as 3,700 new construction jobs and more than 600 permanent plant operation positions. 

[Editor’s note: actually the number of DOI approved utility-scale solar energy projects is up to nine.]

Located in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, Ivanpah is the first of these projects to break ground. The solar power projects employ a variety of innovative solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Ivanpah, for example, will include three solar thermal power units that use mirror fields to focus solar energy on power tower receivers near the center of each array. Steam from solar boilers in the towers drive a turbine which generates electricity for the transmission grid. Construction of all three phases is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

“With private sector initiative and government coordination and encouragement,” said Secretary Salazar, “we are helping to meet the President’s goals for stimulating local economies, creating new jobs for American workers, reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy independence and strengthening national security.”

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