Interior Department Approves Largest Solar Project on U.S. Public Lands
October 27, 2010
Reflecting solar troughs like these will be used in the Blythe Solar Power Project.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved on October 25 the largest solar energy project ever to be built on U.S. public lands. When completed, the Blythe Solar Power Project, which will be the world's largest concentrating solar power facility, will produce up to 1,000 megawatts of solar power. The output will be enough to power 300,000 to 750,000 homes. The installation will cover 7,025 acres of public lands eight miles west of Blythe in Riverside County, California. The developers, Palo Verde Solar I, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, LLC, expect it to create 1,066 jobs at the peak of construction and 295 permanent jobs.
The Blythe project uses parabolic trough technology with rows of parabolic mirrors focusing sunlight on collector tubes, heating oil in the tubes. The tubes carry the oil to a boiler, which sends live steam to a turbine to produce electricity. A new 230-kilovolt transmission line will be constructed to connect the power to the grid. The approval means the Bureau of Land Management will offer Solar Millennium a right-of-way grant to use the public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met. BLM is requiring that Solar Millennium provide funding for alternative habitat for desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat to mitigate the project's environmental impacts. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the builder is eligible to secure $1.9 billion in conditional loan guarantees from DOE for the project. See the DOI press release, a project fact sheet, and the DOE concentrating solar power Web site.