Todd Woody at The New York Times reports on progress for the Blythe solar thermal power plant in California - California Licenses World’s Biggest Solar Thermal Plant.
California regulators have licensed what is for the moment the world’s largest solar thermal power plant, a 1,000-megawatt complex called the Blythe Solar Power Project to be built in the Mojave Desert.
By contrast, a total of 481 megawatts of new solar capacity was installed in the United States last year, mostly from thousands of rooftop solar arrays, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.
“Given the challenge of climate change at this time, it is very important to reduce fossil fuel use by moving forward with the largest solar project in California,” Robert Weisenmiller, a member of the California Energy Commission, said at a hearing Wednesday in Sacramento after a unanimous vote to approve the Blythe project.
“We’re taking a major step toward reducing the threat of future climate change impacts on the state, and at the same time the other real challenge for the state is the economy,” he added, referring to 604 construction jobs and 221 permanent jobs that the Blythe project would create in an area of California where the unemployment rate was 15 percent this summer.
After years of environmental reviews, the California Energy Commission has in the past three weeks licensed solar thermal farms that would generate 1,500 megawatts of electricity when completed.
A commission spokeswoman said the commissioners anticipated making licensing decisions by the end of 2010 on additional solar projects that would produce another 2,829 megawatts. At peak output, those solar farms would generate the equivalent electricity produced by several large nuclear power plants.