World’s Largest Solar Project Breaks Ground in California Desert

World’s Largest Solar Project Breaks Ground in California Desert

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solar-tower-brightsource-energyThe largest solar project in the world broke ground in the Mojave desert yesterday as the first ever to be built on federal land. Scheduled to begin generating clean, renewable electricity for 140,000 California homes by mid-2013, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will create new jobs for 1,000 union construction workers.

Ivanpah, headed by BrightSource Energy, is the first of six large-scale solar projects likely to start construction in the state by the end of the year, taking advantage of Government grants soon to expire. The projects are critical to California’s goal of getting 33 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2020.

The solar thermal project will erect 346,000 large mirrors to redirect the sun onto three towering steam turbines that will generate electricity for two of the state’s power companies.

“Today we are breaking ground on the largest solar project in the world, right here in California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “The construction of this renewable energy plant is great news for our state, helping us meet our long-term energy and environmental goals, while creating jobs and moving us toward a cleaner, more sustainable future — a future where California leads the nation and the world in a clean energy revolution.”

Once completed, the 370-megawatt station will nearly double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the United States today.  The boost in renewable capacity will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking more than 70,000 cars off the road.

Occupying 3,500 acres in San Bernardino County about five miles from the California-Nevada border, the project will employ a low-impact environmental design. Instead of the extensive land grading and concrete pads used by other competing solar technologies, BrightSource mounts mirrors on individual poles that are placed directly into the ground, allowing the solar field to be built around the natural contours of the land and avoid areas of sensitive vegetation.