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Casting a Light on California

October 28, 2010 - 4:00pm


Yesterday, Secretary Salazar joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, an innovative "power tower" project in San Bernardino County, California. Located in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, Ivanpah will use solar “power tower” technology to produce up to 370 megawatts of clean, renewable energy for up to 277,500 homes and is expected to generate 1,000 new jobs at the peak of construction.

The project, which is supported in part by a $1.37 billion conditional commitment for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, consists of three solar thermal power units that use pivoting mirror fields to focus solar energy on power tower receivers near the center of each array which are filled with water. This concentrated heat causes the solar boilers to produce steam, which in turn drives a turbine which generates electricity for the transmission grid.

Ivanpah is one of six large-scale solar energy projects on public lands to have been approved this month by the Department of the Interior and the first project to break ground. Combined, the six projects will produce 2,837 megawatts of energy, enough to power 851,500 to 2.1 million homes, as well as create 3,700 new construction jobs and more than six hundred permanent plant operations positions.

Starting construction by the end of the year was an important milestone for Brightsource as it allows them to qualify for a federal grant worth 30 percent of the total cost of the project. This incentive is given in lieu a 30 percent tax credit, has helped accelerate the development of large scale renewable projects by delivering the incentive at the beginning of the process instead of after its completion, fast tracking projects that might otherwise have languished while their backers searched for financing.

We'll keep you posted on additional large scale solar projects as they break ground in the coming months.

John Schueler is a New Media Specialist with the Office of Public Affairs.