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California Approves 1,000-Megawatt CSP Plant

September 20, 2010

On September 15, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved the construction and operation of four concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, which, if constructed, will combine to make the world’s largest CSP facility, generating about 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The project will be located about 215 miles northeast of San Diego near Blythe, California, near the Arizona border on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Jointly developed by Solar Millennium LLC, of Oakland, and Chevron Energy Solutions, the project will use solar parabolic trough technology to generate electricity. Arrays of parabolic mirrors spread across roughly 7,000 acres will collect heat from the sun and focus it on receiver tubes, where a heat transfer fluid will be heated to 750°F. The hot fluid will be piped through a series of heat exchangers, which will release the heat to generate high pressure steam. That steam will then be fed to steam turbine generators at each of the four plants to produce electricity.

The project is expected to prevent roughly 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, compared to fossil-fueled energy production. The 20-year power purchase agreements between Solar Millennium and Southern California Edison for the first two solar power plants were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in July.

The BLM must still approve the project, but Solar Millennium expects that approval to come in October. The company plans to begin construction on two of the four plants later this year.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "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 Blythe project is the fourth concentrating solar power project approved by the CEC since mid-July.  For more information, see the CEC Web pages on the Solar Millennium Blythe Project, the 250-MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project, the 250-MW Beacon Solar Energy Project, and the 50-MW Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project.


—Karen Atkison