Rise And Shine: Solar Power Gets Bigger In The U.S.

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US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar this week approved the construction of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant with an overall capacity of 1,000MW. in the Mojave desert near Blythe, California.

The 7,025-acre Blythe Solar Power Project will nearly double the country’s solar power output and will power around 300,000 homes, besides saving save one million tons of carbon dioxide per year, it is claimed.

It is the first approval by the US Department of the Interior for a parabolic trough power plant on US public land.

“The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation’s renewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future,” said Ken Salazar.

Solar Millennium will be in charge of developing the project and has signed a purchase agreement with Southern California Edison (SEC) back in July.

Construction

Construction of the $6 billion plant is expected to start at the end of 2010 with production estimated to start in 2013. Solar Millenium says the construction phase will generate 1,066 jobs while the plant will employ 295 people permanently.

In terms of environmental impact, the project has caused concerns over the impact it will have on local wildlife. The Mojave Desert is home to the threatened desert tortoise, bighorn sheep and other animals. Other projects in the region have met with fiercer resistance over such concerns.

Projected solar power growth

Concomitant to this announcement, Bloomberg New Energy Finance issued a report saying that solar may meet 4.2 per cent of American electricity supplies by 2020 thanks to lower costs that make investments more attractive. Cost of thermal and photovoltaic has fallen to less than $200 per megawatt-hour.

The report estimates that $100 billion in investment over the next decade would increase capacity from 1,400MW today to 44,000MW.

Commercial use of solar power will account for half of the installation, with the rest split between residential rooftops and utility scale plants.

The report also estimates that solar will be powering 2.4 per cent of households by 2020.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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