The ROD is a key milestone in the federal permitting process, and it will allow Solar Millennium, LLC to build and operate the Nye County, Nevada solar power project once all other federal, state and local permits are secured. Construction of the project is estimated to begin at the end of 2011.
In October, the BLM approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), a comprehensive public review of the potential impacts of the proposed project on the environment. Now that the ROD is approved, the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project will seek approval of the Section 404 Dredge and Fill permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and will pursue other State of Nevada and local permits. These approvals will be obtained over the next several months before the project will be allowed to proceed with construction.
When completed, the concentrating solar power facility will house two 250 megawatt (MW) units, and will feature up to 4.5 hours of thermal storage. The total nominal generating capacity of the facility will be 500 MW, which is enough electricity to power up to 150,000 homes each year.
The project will also reduce its water usage by 90 percent, when compared to a conventional wet-cooled system, by incorporating dry cooling technology. In addition, Solar Millennium, LLC worked closely with the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to develop an innovative water mitigation plan. The plan ensures that the project will have a net neutral benefit on the plant and animal species found at nearby Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and at Devils Hole.
Uwe T. Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Solar Trust of America and Executive Chairman of Solar Millennium, LLC, said the ROD illustrates the capacity of the renewable energy industry to contribute to the country’s economic upturn over time. “We expect that construction and operation of the Amargosa facility will be important to the renewed growth of Nevada’s state and local economies over the course of the next two to three years. We also see this as a sign that our industry has a strong future in the U.S. overall.”
The Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project will generate approximately 1,300 direct jobs during the approximate 39-month construction period. When the two-unit facility is fully operational it will create more than 180 permanent operation and maintenance jobs.
Gary Hollis, Chairman of the Nye County Board of County Commissioners said, “Solar Millennium has worked with the county and local communities to help make sure this project provides immediate local benefits, diversification of the existing tax base, and opportunities for technical employment and training which will carry our area into the future.” He added that the County was also appreciative of the state and federal agency support as they focus on, “bringing green energy jobs to an area of high unemployment and economic hardship.”
“This solar facility is yet another critical component in the Department’s growing renewable energy portfolio as we work to create strengthen our nation’s energy security,” Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said in signing the Record of Decision for the project. “Our commitment to the development of clean, renewable energy is creating new jobs that will aid in our economic recovery, protect our environment and transform the way our nation gets our energy.”
Josef Eichhammer, President of Solar Trust of America and CEO of Solar Millennium, LLC, stressed that it has been important to the State of Nevada to take a leadership position in the solar industry and utilize their abundant solar resources for electricity generation. “We started the permitting process three years ago and only by close cooperation with governmental agencies, environmental groups and the community, have we been able to achieve this permit for the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project. As a firm we are pleased that our use of innovative dry-cooling technologies enabled us to contribute more prominently to the local environment as well as the long-term goals for the state.”
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, and generates 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.
Solar Trust of America, LLC is an integrated industrial solar solutions company strategically positioned to support the critical need for renewable energy generation in the United States. The company’s Project Development, Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC), financial resources and operational management expertise ensures the delivery of a fully integrated concentrated solar power solution using commercially viable and proven parabolic trough solar thermal energy technology.
Together with its wholly owned U.S. development subsidiary, Oakland, California-based Solar Millennium, LLC, and global business partners Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal AG, Solar Trust of America is actively pursuing the construction and development of multiple solar thermal power plants across the southwestern U.S. In addition to the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project, the company currently has solar thermal energy power plants in development near Blythe, Desert Center, and Ridgecrest, California.