Ceremony marks construction of the world’s largest solar power plant

Californian Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the Mayor of Blythe Joseph DeConnick have taken part in a ground breaking ceremony at the site of two vast solar-thermal power plants in Blythe, California.

Each power plant is anticipated to be worth 242 megawatts (MW). Early construction work began on them at the end of 2010.

The two plants are part of a larger project to build four solar-thermal power plants at this location, with a combined capacity of 1,000 MW. The suitability of the Mojave Desert site was evident in the 113F (45C) temperature recorded on the day of the official ceremony.

The Solar Millennium Group is behind the scheme with Solar Trust of America being the American company unit within the group. German based Solar Millennium AG has additional solar-thermal projects around the world with a combined capacity of more than 2,000 MW.

The overall investment sum for the first two solar-thermal power plants in Blythe is approximately $2.8 billion. The Blythe project received the required loan guarantee for the project from U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu only a few weeks ago. The loan guarantees are required as 75 percent of the construction costs of the first two plants will be funded through borrowed funds.

Solar Millennium AG’s Christoph Wolff remarked at the ceremony that the project represents a major development is solar power generation globally. "For the first time, we are utilizing solar energy with capabilities equaling those of nuclear power or major coal-fired power plants."

Southern California Edison will purchase the electricity produced in the Blythe one and two plants, thus meeting its state renewable energy quota requirements. The two power plants are expected to be connected to the grid by 2014.