August 27, 2010 — The California Energy Commission gave unanimous approval to a 250-MW solar-thermal project, in what could be a string of more approvals of large-scale solar projects in the state before the end of the year.
The Beacon Solar Energy project, to be built on the western edge of the Mojave Desert, will use parabolic trough solar thermal technology to collect energy from the sun and heat tubes filled with fluid to help run a steam turbine generator. The licensing comes after an environmental review process that began more than two years ago.
Beacon Solar, a subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, will build and manage the 250-MW Beacon site on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. Beacon first applied for approval in 2008.
The 2,012-acre site for Beacon Solar sits on land previously used for farming. Developer NextEra Energy Resources will also use recycled municipal water rather than groundwater for the roughly 456 million gallons needed annually for the plant’s wet-cooling process.
While Beacon Solar would be situated on private land and so does not require U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval, this month the BLM has already issued a final environmental impact statement for five commercial-scale solar power projects in the Southern California desert. Together the projects, once built, would cover 26,000 acres and produce enough electricity to power about 2.4 million homes.
The Blythe Solar Power Project in southeast California — expected to produce 1,000 MW — is just one of several projects in the state that BLM has tagged on its fast-track permitting schedule in an effort to meet the year-end deadline for federal incentives.