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1,000-megawatt Blythe solar power cleared by state regulators

A massive solar project planned for the California desert got the go-ahead from state regulators Wednesday.

The California Energy Commission unanimously cleared the Blythe Solar Power Project to start construction. Over the next few weeks, commissioners are expected to authorize construction on several other solar installations that are scrambling to take advantage of a federal stimulus package that expires in December.

The funds could cover nearly a third of each project’s expenses. Recently, the commission approved the 250-megawatt Beacon Solar Energy Project and the Abengoa Mojave Solar Project. Next up: The commission will consider the controversial Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

The Blythe installation, which is slated to be built on public land, is also awaiting permission from the federal Bureau of Land Management, the final step required before it can break ground. That decision is expected sometime in October and would make the project among the first commercial solar thermal power plants permitted on federal public land.

The Blythe project --  a group of four parts producing nearly 1,000 megawatts of power – is expected to be the largest solar facility of its kind in the world. The so-called parabolic trough technology will rely on curved mirrors to heat liquid, which produces steam that is piped to a turbine to generate electricity.

San Francisco-based Chevron Energy Solutions and German company Solar Millennium will erect the panels by the Arizona border in Riverside County, spilling across more than 7,000 acres. Some, including local historians, have complained about the potential effect of the plant on the surrounding region.

The project will initially sell electricity to Southern California Edison through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

--Tiffany Hsu

 
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