The State of California has granted approval for a new solar thermal power plant. The 250-megawatt Beacon Solar Energy Project is the first solar thermal power plant to be licensed in the United States in nearly 20 years. Commercial operation is expected to start by the third quarter of 2011.
Several other solar projects are also in the pipeline and seeking approval by the end of the year, including the Brightsource 400 MW solar tower. More than 4 GW of other solar thermal projects are also pending with the state.
Beacon Solar will be an array of solar focusing parabolic troughs spread over a 2,012 acre site in Kern County, California. The approval process required a solution to local residents' objections to the great amount of water the project would require. The final agreement will have the project use recycled water from a nearby community instead of drawing directly from the local aquifer. The project expects to use nearly 1600 acre feet (1.97 million cubic meters) of water annually.
The state of California has mandated that 20% of its electrical power come from renewables by 2010. While it does not look like that target is going to be met, the approval of several hundred megawatts of solar thermal power will help get the state closer to that goal.
written by Bill Davidson, August 28, 2010
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