Two Solar Energy Plants, Including 1 GW Plant, Approved for Federal Lands

The U.S. Interior Department has approved a permit for the $6 billion, 1,000 MW Blythe parabolic solar trough project and the 663.5 MW Calico solar power plant on federal lands in the California desert. The Blythe project would be one of the largest solar power plants in the world.

The Blythe project is being developed by Solar Trust of America, a joint venture between Germany’s Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal AG. The project is one of nine large solar-thermal power plants the California Energy Commission has approved or plans to approve by the end of the year. Others include the Calico project, Imperial Valley and the Chevron Lucerne Valley solar projects, which were also given approval by the Interior Department. The Silver State solar power plant in Nevada was approved in early October.

Blythe Solar will cover 7,025 acres on a site 216 miles east of Los Angeles. The facility will use parabolic mirrors to focus the sun’s energy onto tubes that carry heated oil to a boiler, which sends steam to a turbine. Solar Millennium agreed to fund conservation measures protecting the desert tortoise and Mojave fringe-toed lizard in return for permission to build the Blythe project on public land.

Federal approval allows the companies to start work on the plants this year to take advantage of government incentives that would reduce project costs. To receive cash grants in exchange for unused tax credits, companies must break ground on projects or spend 5 percent of construction costs by year’s end.


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