California, The World’s Solar Power Capital

California Solar News – There is enough solar energy in the deserts of California to power all of Los Angeles. 1,600 kilowatt hours of solar energy falls on every square 11 square feet of land surface annually. That is equal to the amount of energy that is found in 1 barrel of oil. Big difference though, when the oil is consumed, its gone, except for what pumped into the air. Solar panels produce no emission, there are no moving parts to maintain and a solar panel will keep producing electricity for a minimum of 25 years! O ya, almost forgot, there is one more thing… with solar, there is no war required. Read More –

NY Times
California Desert on Pace to Become World’s Solar Capital
By SCOTT STREATER of Greenwire

Southern California is poised to become the world’s solar power capital as the Obama administration continues to stamp its approval on large-scale renewable energy projects across the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

Since Aug. 1, the Bureau of Land Management has issued final environmental impact statements (EISs) for three commercial solar plants that, once built, will cover nearly 20,000 acres of BLM land in the desert regions and produce enough electricity to power nearly 1.6 million homes.

Final EISs were issued on Friday to Tessera Solar’s 850-megawatt Calico Solar plant and BrightSource Energy Inc.’s 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Both plants are to be built in sparsely populated eastern San Bernardino County, California’s largest county.

The Calico and Ivanpah EISs follow the release of a final environmental impact statement for Tessera Solar’s 709-megawatt Imperial Valley project in Imperial County, which borders Arizona and Mexico in the southeast corner of the state (Land Letter, Aug. 5).

While the issuance of a final EIS does not authorize construction, which is a state responsibility, it removes the last major regulatory hurdle in getting a large-scale energy project involving federal land off the ground.

Collectively, the Tessera and BrightSource projects would produce more than triple the amount of solar power currently produced in the United States. And they are just the first of more than a dozen plants nearing final approval on federal lands in Arizona, California and Nevada.

By the end of August, BLM plans to publish final EISs for three more commercial solar projects in the agency’s California Desert District, said Linda Resseguie, BLM’s solar program lead in Washington, D.C. And another three solar plants are expected to reach the final EIS stage by the end of the year, Resseguie said.

These nine California plants, if fully built, would cover 41,229 acres of BLM land and have the panels capacity to generate 4,580 megawatts of commercial electricity, enough to power 3.8 million businesses and homes, according to federal estimates.

“It’s huge,” Ken Zweibel, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute, said of the projects moving toward final approval. “These projects are going to change the very nature of solar energy in the world because there is nothing of this magnitude or scale that’s going on.”

Industry officials, too, are excited about the Obama administration’s commitment to solar power after years of positive statements from federal agencies supporting the renewables sector, but with few new power plants to show for it.

“Our perspective is that finally the logjam seems to be loosening,” said Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We’re talking about gigawatts of electricity that can power tens of millions of homes.”

A looming deadline

But concerns remain about the pace of permitting.

The nine solar projects in Southern California, along with one in Arizona and four in Nevada, have been placed by the Interior Department on a “fast-track” permitting schedule that should qualify developers to receive lucrative federal grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The projects, however, must be under construction by Dec. 31 to receive federal stimulus dollars.

“It’s taken a while, and we are now getting near the end of the year,” Hanis said.

And not all of the fast-tracked projects are on pace to meet that year-end deadline.

Examples include the proposed 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm project in Riverside County, Calif., and three Nevada projects totaling 610 megawatts, Resseguie said.

The Desert Sunlight project “will likely not be permitted by the end of 2010,” said Alan Bernheimer, a spokesman for First Solar Inc., the project’s Tempe, Ariz.-based developer.

First Solar officials said the project could still qualify for economic stimulus funding because the company has proposed by year’s end to manufacture a significant number of the photovoltaic solar panels needed for the project, thus qualifying as beginning construction by the deadline, Bernheimer said.

“While it’s true that the permit is needed before construction can start, projects may also qualify if significant physical work begins offsite by the end of 2010, such as solar manufacturing components for the project,” he said in an e-mail to Land Letter.

Resseguie acknowledged that permitting multiple large-scale solar power projects on such a tight schedule has placed the agency on a steep learning curve.

“It is definitely new for the BLM, the size and scope for these types of projects,” she said. “It’s new for the solar companies, too, because we just don’t have this large development anywhere else. So there are definitely going to be issues that we have not encountered anywhere else.”