Massive Parabolic Solar Electricity Array Will Soon Power Nearly 1 million Homes in California

Sacramento Solar News – In the desert of California, a massive solar array will soon be powering 800,000 homes and bringing work to several hundred California households putting money back into local California communities.

Concentrating solar power is a technology that uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate solar radiation into a collector usually located in the center of the mirror. The solar thermal energy is then used to heat oils that in turn turn water into steam turning turbines to product electricity. These utility scale systems are complex to build but California has vasts deserts waiting to turn our clean renewable energy which produces jobs.

Parabolic trough collectors are the most common and cost effective when used on a utility scale. The California Energy Commission recently approved a massive 1 megawatt solar plant that will help bring clean electricity and jobs to California. Read More –

The Press Enterprise By JIM MILLER, Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – California energy commissioners approved the world’s largest solar project Wednesday, a 1,000-megawatt complex of solar parabolic mirrors and heating elements in eastern Riverside County that will produce hundreds of construction jobs.

When finished, the $4 billion Blythe Solar Power Project will generate enough electricity to power 800,000 homes, according to the California Energy Commission. Officials called it a milestone in the state’s push to produce one-third of its energy from renewable sources like solar.

“Please go build this project. This is exactly what we’re looking for,” commissioner Jeffrey D. Byron told Alice Harron, the senior director of development for Solar Millennium, the Blythe project’s developer.

Construction is planned to start by the end of the year and will last a projected 69 months. An average of 600 people will work on the project, which will employ more than 1,000 workers at its peak. When finished, the plant will employ 221 people, according to plans.

Wednesday’s vote marked the third large solar project approved by the energy commission in recent weeks, and the second in the Inland area. Last Wednesday, commissioners approved a 250 megawatt project northwest of Barstow.

The projects are among nine large solar applicants, totaling 4,300 megawatts, that have sought state approval. Officials have to act by Dec. 31 to make the work eligible for federal stimulus cash grants. Stimulus loan guarantees are available through September 2011.

Federal financing will cover 30 percent of the Blythe project’s cost, said Rachel McMahon, Solar Millennium’s director of government affairs.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the vote, calling renewable power “the future of the California economy.”

Proposed solar fields have faced concerns about their environment and cultural impacts. The Blythe project raised questions about its effects on, among other things, the desert tortoise, American Indian cultural sites and the nearby Blythe airport, where there were worries about glare from the solar mirrors.

Wednesday, energy commissioners said Solar Millennium is doing its best to address the issues. The project’s benefits to the Inland economy and efforts to reduce heat-trapping emissions take priority, they said.

“It’s not a perfect project,” said commissioner Robert B. Weisenmiller. “But I think the overriding considerations come back to, given the challenge of climate change at this time, it’s very important to move forward” on the work.

The Blythe solar project still needs approvals from a pair of federal agencies the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The firm expects action by the end of October, McMahon said.

Located eight miles west of Blythe and two miles north of Interstate 10, the solar project will cover 7,025 acres. The field would use hundreds of solar parabolic mirrors to focus heat on special tubes.

Heated liquid in the tubes using solar energy would generate high-pressure steam to power turbine generators. The project will hook into a Southern California Edison substation.

Wednesday’s approval came as state officials and others, meeting a few blocks away, convened a hearing on preparing workers for renewable energy projects.

The construction, utility and transportation industries have shed more than 13,000 jobs in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in 2009-10, according to a report presented at the hearing. The Blythe project and six other Southern California solar facilities in the works would produce about 2,500 jobs in those fields over the next several years.

“There isn’t anything else solar on the horizon on that scale,” said V. John White, V. John White, executive director of the Sacramento-based Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, which compiled the report. “What it means is that Riverside County, along with Kern, is the center of the solar revival.”