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Bechtel, unions pair with BrightSource to fill construction jobs at Ivanpah solar project

December 17, 2009 | 10:41 am

Ivanpah

Bechtel Construction Co. is pairing with two local unions to fill construction jobs for a solar thermal facility under development in the San Bernardino County desert, the organizations said this morning.

Once construction on the 440-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electricity Generating System gets underway next year, assuming the permitting process is completed, the project could require 1,000 workers at its peak.

The facility, owned by Oakland-based solar energy provider BrightSource Energy Inc., is expected to pay out $250 million in total construction wages. Over its estimated 30-year lifetime, the three plants that make up the complex will create 86 permanent jobs and account for $650 million in total employee earnings, the company said.

The Building & Construction Trades Council of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties will fill the positions, along with the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California. The statewide council is the umbrella organization for 160 unions representing 350,000 construction workers. Bechtel, the contractor, will provide wages, fringe benefits and working conditions, according to the agreement.

In October, San Bernardino County’s unemployment rate was 14%.

The facility will create electricity using hot steam that turns a turbine. Thousands of mirrors called heliostats will reflect sunlight into a boiler on top of a tower filled with water. To conserve water, an air-cooling system will convert the steam back into water once the electricity is produced.
The process will use 100 acre-feet of water, equal to the yearly water use of 300 homes.

The energy produced by the plant, which will be enough to power 156,000 homes and displace enough carbon dioxide to take the equivalent of 75,000 cars off the road, will be sold under separate contracts with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

But the plan is already kicking some of the same controversy and environmental concerns that led BrightSource to scrap plans in September for a solar facility in the Mojave Desert.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: BrightSource Energy

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