US: CEC gives world’s largest solar power site the go ahead

Construction on two of the plants is scheduled to begin at the end of this year, following receipt of the final construction permit – expected this October – and conclusion of financing.

The project site, located eight miles west of the city of Blythe, Riverside County, California, was developed by Solar Millennium LLC, Oakland, the U.S. project development company within the Solar Millennium Group. The total capacity of the planned solar power plants at this location is approximately equal to the turbine output of a nuclear power plant or a big modern coal fired power plant, said the company.

When completed, Josef Eichhammer, president of Solar Trust of America and CEO of Solar Millennium LLC, said it will be the largest solar project in the world. He added that 2,500 jobs should be created during the construction phase.

The financing for the first two solar power plants is scheduled to close this autumn, which will reportedly include loan guarantees and grants by the U.S. government. The investment volumes of more than one billion USD per plant make this one of the largest infrastructure projects in the U.S. at the moment, according to Thomas Mayer, spokesman of the executive board of Solar Millennium AG.

The four power plants together would supply an annual electricity volume of around 2,200 gigawatt hours and thereby save roughly two million tons of carbon dioxide each year, continued Solar Millennium. The power purchase agreements between the company, and the American energy provider Southern California Edison (SCE) for the first two 242-MW solar power plants initially scheduled to be built were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in July.

Mayer stated: "Once the first two plants are connected to the grid in 2013 and 2014, we will have implemented the Desertec idea in California. With solar power plants in the California desert, we will be able to supply Los Angeles and other metropolitan cities on the American west coast with environmentally friendly electricity."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger added: "I applaud the California Energy Commission’s decision to approve the construction of the Blythe Solar Power Project – the world’s largest – and am excited to see other solar projects move forward. Projects like this need our immediate attention, as solar and renewable power are the future of the California economy."