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World's largest solar power plant gets the first green light

Friday, 08 October 2010

Largest solar power plant - work principle. The building of world's largest solar power plant became one step closer after the proposed $6 billion-plus Blythe, California plant, originally proposed by Chevron Corp. and Solar Millennium AG won clearance to build from the California Energy Commission. Many energy experts believe that such move will no doubt give tremendous boost to US solar power industry, and open the door for many new solar energy projects. Once built, the plant should have a capacity of 1000 megawatts - 1GW. 1000 megawatts is gigantic number when talking about the solar power and the best way to demonstrate this is a last year's data from the Solar Energy Industry Association which shows that the U.S. installed about 481 megawatts of solar energy in 2009, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. And to make comparison even better, the largest solar plants up to date are four times smaller, in the 200-350 megawatt range. We can compare this also to average capacity of nuclear power plant which is 846MW in US.

The working principle of this huge power plant will consist of using mirrors to heat a fluid that generates steam, which expands through steam turbine generators. The technique is known as parabolic trough technology, and is currently among the most popular solar power technologies. This is the largest solar energy project in California but not the only one, in fact it is one of nine proposed California solar plants that federal and state regulators are trying to evaluate by the end of the year, of course this one being the most important.

Largest solar power plant - work principle.

It is very important to start construction of this solar power plant as soon as possible because solar plants that begin construction before December 31 qualify for a Treasury Department grant totaling 30 percent of a project's cost, as part of last year's economic stimulus package. Building Blythe would not only account for more energy coming from renewable energy sources but should also create more than 1000 construction jobs, something that will be greatly appreciated given the unemployment rates in the nearby area.

In perfect scenario, namely if all nine planned solar power plants win approval and are constructed, they will create an additional 4300 megawatts of solar power. The developers of these large solar power plants still need to obtain final approval from the Bureau of Land Management for use of public lands, and if everything goes according to the plan this approval should be obtained by the end of the October 2010. Together with this approval the developers must also secure a Department of Energy loan, and DOE is already evaluating the Blythe plant's proposal, especially its engineering and financial models.

If everything goes as expected, California will further claim its position as the nation's renewable energy leader, and solar power could become very popular option for new renewable energy investment. Since the huge growth of wind energy capacity in US is expected to slow down in the next few years it is very good to see solar power stepping in, and leading the nation towards the renewable energy future. The total price tag of $6 billion may seem huge to some people but fossil fuel fired power plants do not come cheap either, and unlike fossil fuels solar power is environmentally acceptable source of energy. This six billion dollar investment results with $6000 per installed KW of solar power, and for constructing nuclear power plant this numbers are between $4000 and $5500 per installed KW of nuclear power.

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