Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Biggest. Solar. Farm. Ever.


The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $2.1 billion in conditional loan guarantees to support what will be the world's biggest solar power plant, the government's largest commitment to date to solar energy.

The aid will support construction of the first two units of Solar Trust of America's 1,000 megawatt solar thermal Blythe Solar Power Project, the DOE said yesterday. Solar Trust of America is a joint venture between German companies Solar Millennium and Ferrostaal.

"For the first time in mankind's history, a solar power facility will be built at a scale and output capacity equal to the very largest coal-fired and nuclear power plants operating in the world today," Solar Trust of America Chief Executive Uwe Schmidt said on a conference call with reporters.

The first two units of the project near Blythe, Calif., will be capable of producing 484 MW of electricity using solar thermal trough technology. The project will create over 1,000 construction jobs and 80 operations jobs and will avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those generated by about 123,000 vehicles.

Solar Millennium's technology makes electricity by using trough-shaped mirrors to heat a fluid that generates steam that turns a turbine. The Blythe project's total price tag is estimated at north of $6 billion, with the first phase costing about $2.8 billion.

That may seem like a large amount of money, but for some perspective on that figure, consider that Michigan spent $1.36 billion on imported coal in 2008 alone. California doesn't have a lot of coal-generated power in-state, but they import more electricity than any other state - some from coal plants in nearby states. And while this project doesn't create a lot of long-term jobs, it sure will help cut down on the need for fossil fuels.

More of this, please.