Two desert solar thermal projects gain California OKs

Two more large concentrated solar energy projects planned for in the desert of eastern Riverside County gained unanimous approval Wednesday from the California Energy Commission.

The 500-megawatt Palen Concentrating Solar Power Project and 150-megawatt Rice concentrated solar energy  Project combined will provide enough electricity to serve about 488,000 single-family homes.

A subsidiary of Solar Millennium, LLC, plans to build the Palen concentrated solar energy project about halfway between the cities of Indio and Blythe.

It and the Rice plant, under development by a subsidiary of SolarReserve LLC northwest of Blythe, are the last of nine solar plants that the state commission has approved in Southern California since August.

In order to qualify for federal stimulus funds, the projects needed to be approved by the Energy Commission before the end of the year.

If completed, all the plants would be online by 2014 with the capacity to produce 4,100 megawatts of electricity.

The Palen and Rice solar thermal projects still require approvals from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which approves the use of federal lands, before they can proceed.

The Rice project also requires approval from the Western Area Power Administration for its transmission plans. Those approvals are scheduled to be made in 2011.

U.S. government pushes solar power in six western states

The Obama administration on Thursday proposed special energy zones on public lands in six western states deemed good locations to build utility-scale facilities to produce electricity from solar power. T

he Interior Department issued a draft environmental impact statement that looked at the effect of solar energy projects able to generate 20 megawatts of power in areas that have the highest solar potential and will do the least harm to the environment.

"As stewards of our public lands, we must make sure that we are developing renewable energy in the right way and in the right places," Salazar said.

The western states targeted with 24 solar energy zones were Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

Bob Abbey, who heads the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management said the amount of electricity that could be generated by the sun on all BLM lands in the six states, could total 24,000 megawatts over 20 years.

Leslie Berkman,