(ADPnews) - Sep 23, 2010 - The California Energy Commission (CEC) has given the green light to US solar thermal power developer BrightSource Energy Inc to go ahead with its proposed 370 MW Ivanpah project, touted as the world's largest.
The move comes after in early August the controversial project in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California got the nod of a CEC siting committee.
The Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System has triggered a firestorm of criticism from greens but commissioners unanimously decided that its benefits in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation and economic development override environmental impacts.
Still, the developer did scale back its plans, cutting the facility's original footprint of some 4,100 acres (16.5 sq km) to 3,600 acres to avoid the most sensitive areas and reducing the number of 450-foot (137-metre) power towers from seven to three.
The project still requires approval from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which approves the use of federal public land. The BLM's action is scheduled for October.
The Ivanpah project will be developed in three phases including one 120 MW phase and two 125 MW phases. It is based on distributed power tower and heliostat mirror technology, in which heliostat (mirror) fields focus solar energy on tower receivers near the centre of each heliostat array to generate steam-driven electricity.
Once in full swing, the Ivanpah project will generate enough clean energy for 140,000 homes and prevent more than 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from going into the atmosphere annually, equivalent to taking more than 70,000 cars off the road.
The generated power will be sold under separate contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE), with the former scooping up some two-thirds and the latter about one-third. Overall, BrightSource has contracted to deliver more than 2,600 MW of electric power to the two utilities.
In February, BrightSource secured a conditional commitment from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for USD 1.37 billion (EUR 1.02bn) in loan guarantees to back the project. The company is currently in the process of arranging additional tax equity and project equity to round out the financing package.
The Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System project is one of nine large solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the CEC before the end of the year. More than 4,300 MW of solar power will be added if all nine projects are approved.