The approval is the second in as many weeks, the first being the 250MW Beacon Solar Energy Project, which was approved on August 25. The Commission is a five-member group selected for their knowledge of economics, environment, law, science and engineering, and the needs of California residents. It supervises every aspect California’s energy climate, and was unanimous in its approval for the solar installation.
Spain-based Abengoa Solar, with additional projects in Texas, Arizona and Colorado, develops solar thermal projects that concentrate sunlight via parabolic mirrors and tracking devices to generate intense heat. This heat is then delivered to a receiver tube which is filled with a fluid that supports very high temperatures (commonly molted salt or oil). The heated fluid is used to drive a steam turbine, for example, to generate power.
The San Bernardino project, officially known as the Mojave Solar Project, is a 250 megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power (CSP) plant that will be located on 1,765 acres of private land located near Harper Dry Lake in an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, 100 miles east of Los Angeles.
In a September 7 letter to Energy Commissioners, San Bernardino County commissioners explained the unanimous approval of this “optimal renewable energy project” in terms of the County’ adoption, in 2007, of the "Green County San Bernardino" program, designed to promote clean energy, “green” technologies and (building) energy-efficiency initiatives.
In addition, County commissioners noted that the project’s location, on previously disturbed, private agricultural land, meant that it did not share characteristics common to other large solar projects also making their way through the approval process, namely the Ivanpah Project and the Calico Project.
Those latter two, the Commission noted, will be built on “essentially undisturbed biological habitat sites” that are also valuable for their wilderness and recreational value to campers, hikers and nature lovers.
In fact, the county’s paramount concern surrounding the Abengoa solar project appears to be worker safety – an issue addressed in several letters from the county to the energy commissioners.
PG&E Corp. (formerly Pacific Gas & Electric), a regional utility that serves Southern California energy consumers between Modoc and Los Angeles, has already agreed to buy Abengoa solar energy – an agreement still awaiting approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulatory arm of California’s energy infrastructure.
Other California solar projects also awaiting approval are the Blythe Solar Power Project (1,000 MW, Riverside County); the Genesis Solar Energy Project (250 MW, Riverside County); the Imperial Valley Solar Project (709 MW); the Palen Solar Power Project (500 MW, Riverside County); and the 150 MW Rice Solar Energy Project (150 MW, Riverside County).
If all nine projects are approved, California will add 4,300 MW of solar energy, in a giant step toward meeting its 2010 (end of year) renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 20 percent of the state’s energy needs coming from renewable sources. The next RPS milestone is in 2020, when the mandate rises to 33 percent.
Image credit: Alex Lang via Flickr
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