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Brightsource's Ivanpah solar project breaks ground

October 27, 2010 | 11:57 am

Brightsource
The weather was nippy and the casinos of Primm were looming within eyeshot, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was still in a jolly mood Wednesday morning.

After all, the largest solar thermal project in the world was breaking ground on his turf in the Mojave Desert, just shy of the Nevada border.

"Some people look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness," he said at the event for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. "I see miles and miles of gold mine."

The plant, backed by Oakland-based BrightSource Energy Inc., is to produce 370 megawatts when it starts operating, scheduled for mid-2013, the company said.

Earlier, the company announced a partnership with Princeton, N.J.-based utility NRG Energy Inc., which will pump $300 million into the Ivanpah project over the next three years.

NRG already owns California's largest photovoltaic solar project -– a 21-megawatt installation in Blythe -– and will become the Ivanpah facility's lead investor.

The Ivanpah project already has a loan guarantee worth nearly $1.4 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy.

"This is the beginning, the Apollo project, the liftoff," said Joshua Bar-Lev, vice president of regulatory affairs for BrightSource. "This is an energy future we control, not one controlled by foreign countries. ... We are the pioneers.”

Added Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in a cowboy hat: "We will make believers out of the skeptics."

Protest
-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo, top: A rendering of one of the Ivanpah sites. Credit: BrightSource.

Photo, bottom: Demonstrators at the site protesting the impact of construction on the local desert tortoise. Credit: Laura Cunningham.

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