The California Energy Commission approved the construction and operation of four solar-thermal power plants with a planned overall capacity of around 1,000 megawatts (MW) at the Blythe location in California on Wednesday. The project site was developed by Solar Millennium LLC, Oakland, the US project development company within the Solar Millennium Group (ISIN DE0007218406).
The total capacity of the planned solar power plants at this location is thus approximately equal to the turbine output of a nuclear power plant or a big modern coal fired power plant. Solar Millennium intends to begin the initial construction on two of four plants overall in 2010. The conclusion of the approval process is expected to come in October with the decision by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Thomas Mayer, Spokesman of the Executive Board of Solar Millennium AG: "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."
The financing for the first two solar power plants is also scheduled to come to a close in autumn, which will include loan guarantees and grants by the US government. The investment volumes of more than one billion USD per plant make this one of the largest infrastructure projects in the US at the moment," Mayer further explains.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: "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."
The four power plants together would supply an annual electricity volume of approximately 2,200 gigawatt hours and thereby save roughly two million tons of carbon dioxide each year. The power purchase agreements between Solar Millennium LLC, Oakland, 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. The contract regulates the purchase of electricity produced by the power plants via SCE for 20 years after the start of operations.
Solar Millennium LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Solar Trust of America LLC, the US-American joint venture of Solar Millennium (70 percent) and Ferrostaal (30 percent). Uwe T. Schmidt, CEO of Solar Trust of America, explains the significance of the solar power plants in reshaping energy supply: "The power plants planned in Blythe will be an important part of reaching California’s goals regarding the use of renewable energy sources." California has legally stipulated in the Renewable Portfolio Standards that regional energy providers must increase the share of renewable energy sources in their power supply to 20 percent by the end of this year. By the year 2020 even every third kilowatt hour could come from renewable energy sources.
Josef Eichhammer, President of Solar Trust of America and CEO of Solar Millennium LLC, adds: "The Blythe Solar Power Project (Blythe Project) will be 1,000 megawatts of clean, zero emission, renewable energy capacity. Because we are cooling the steam cycle of the turbines with air instead of with water, we require 90 percent less water. It is located 8 miles west of the city of Blythe, in Riverside County, California. Once fully constructed and operational, the Blythe Project will be the largest solar project in the world. At the same time, we are reviving the local economy by creating 2,500 jobs during the construction phase."
Solar Millennium AG, Erlangen, is an international company in the renewable energy sector, with its main focus on solar-thermal power plants. Together with its subsidiaries and associates, the Company specializes in parabolic trough power plants and has managed to take a globally leading position in this field. Solar Millennium strives to further extend its expertise in the area of solar-thermal power plants with the aim of achieving and securing sustainable technology leadership.
As such, the Company covers all important business sectors along the value chain for solar-thermal power plants: from project development and financing to the technology and the turnkey construction and operation of power plants. In Spain, Solar Millennium developed Europe’s first parabolic trough power plants and realized these together with partners. Additional projects are planned around the world with an overall capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts: here the current regional focus is on Spain, the US, India, China, the Middle East and North Africa.
Solar Trust of America (STA) is a joint venture of the Solar Millennium Group (70%) and the Ferrostaal Group (30%) and covers important business fields in the value chain for solar thermal power plants in the region of North America. This includes the business segments of project development and financing, engineering, turn-key construction and operation of power plants. Solar Millennium LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Solar Trust of America.
Solar-thermal power plants generate electricity by converting solar radiation into heat energy. In a parabolic trough power plant, trough-shaped mirrors concentrate the incidental radiation onto a pipe in the focal line of the collector. Its absorption heats a fluid heat medium in the pipe, generating steam in the power block through a heat exchanger. As in conventional power plants, the steam powers a turbine to generate electricity. By integrating thermal storage, electricity can be supplied on demand, even after sunset.