The World?s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Project Finds a Home in California

That’s the impact that the Blythe Solar Power Project is projected to have upon completion. Announced by the Department of the Interior on Monday, this solar energy installation will span 7,025 acres of public lands and produce up to 1,000 megawatts of solar power, producing enough to power 300,000 – 750,000 homes.

The massive solar energy project will generate over 1,000 construction jobs, before requiring 295 permanent staff to maintain the solar thermal plant. The Blythe site will be the first of four solar thermal plant developments that will eventually produce 2,800 megawatts of electricity, powering up to two million homes in the region.

Secretary Salazar praised the project, calling it “a major milestone in our nation’s renewable energy economy…” which “shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future.”

The plant will utilize a "parabolic trough" system whereby parabolic mirrors focus the sun’s energy onto collector tubes. Fluid in the tubes is then heated and sent to a boiler, which sends live steam to a turbine to produce electricity. A new 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line will be constructed to connect the Blythe Solar Project to the Devers-Palo Verde #2 500 kV line at the Colorado River substation. Construction is slated to begin at the end of 2010 and the project is expected to start producing electricity in 2013.

In April of 2009 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) committed to helping the nation reach its clean energy future by guaranteeing coordinated, focused processing, full environmental analysis and public review for specific renewable energy projects where the companies involved had demonstrated they were ready to advance to the formal environmental review and public participation process. 

On October 12, 2009 Secretary Salazar and Governor Schwarzenegger signed an agreement directing Interior agencies and California State agencies to create a federal-state initiative to advance development of environmentally appropriate renewable energy on U.S. lands in California. The Blythe Solar Power Project is one of the projects currently being jointly processed through the BLM and the California Energy Commission cooperative model. It was licensed by the California Energy Commission on September 15, 2010.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has served as an opportunity to transform the way we use energy, reducing our carbon emissions and create entire new industries based on America’s resources, America’s ingenuity, and America’s workers. Through the Recovery Act’s payments in lieu of tax credits for specified energy program, Solar Millennium can apply for payments of up to 30% of the eligible costs of the Blythe Solar Power Project. These payments are authorized by Section 1603 of the ARRA tax title.

The Blythe Solar Power Project is one of the projects that will help achieve the Administration and Interior initiative to make a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands. The State of California is working to achieve a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard, which will require 15,000 – 20,000 MW of renewable energy by 2020.

The Blythe Solar Power Project is the largest solar energy project yet approved for construction on public lands. When completed, it will be the world’s largest concentrated solar power facility, generating up to 1,000 megawatts.