Solar Millennium Blythe to be largest solar energy plant on Earth

a solar energy farm that will be dwarfed by the blythe solar plant

Solar Millennium's Blythe solar energy farm will dwarf the project shown here and produce enough power for 300,000 homes. Image: public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Solar Millennium has been planning to build the world’s largest solar energy farm near Blythe, Calif. On Tuesday, the federal government approved the company’s plans to build a 1,000 megawatt solar power plant that covers 7,000 acres and supplies enough power for more than 300,000 homes. Native Americans have opposed the Solar Millennium project, saying that the power plant will displace animals and plants and destroy sacred sites.

Solar Millennium’s Blythe energy plant

Solar Millennium’s Blythe solar power plant will be built between Phoenix and Los Angeles in the Palo Verde Valley. TechCrunch reports that the plant is a “parabolic trough” power plant. Curved mirrors will focus the sun’s heat on a pipe full of heat transfer fluid. The fluid will capture and concentrate the sun’s heat to create steam used to spin a turbine for electricity. Solar Millennium, a German company, hopes to connect to the power grid by 2013. About 1,000 jobs will be created during the plant’s construction. Once operational the plant will provide 220 permanent jobs.

Solar energy lures investor billions

Solar Millennium said it has enough cash to get construction started immediately. However, the ultimate success of the Blythe solar energy project depends on government incentives and pending financing. The company is negotiating with the U.S. Department of Energy to secure $1.9 billion in federal loan guarantees. Reuters reports that the cost of solar power is dropping and it is attracting more investors. Reuters cites a Bloomberg report predicting that in the next decade investment in solar energy could reach $100 billion and capacity could rise to 44,000 megawatts. By 2020, 4.2 percent of U.S. electricity could come from solar power.

The dark side of solar energy

Not everyone is happy with Solar Millennium’s Blythe power plant. Green Prophet reports that activists submitted a petition to the California Energy Commission saying that in order to go after government solar power incentives, the project was fast-tracked without considering its effect on the cultural heritage of Native Americans in the area. The Blythe solar project has been said to encroach on the Blythe Intaglios, huge petroglyphs carved into the ground that when seen from the air depict important figures in Native American creation myths.




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