US to build $6 billion solar farm in Californian desert

US Secretary for the Interior Ken Salazar approved what will be the world’s largest solar farm project, producing 1,000 megawatts of energy once the $6billion project is completed in California.

German firm Solar Millennium has been given permission to proceed with the solar thermal plant that could power up to 750,000 homes in the surrounding regions of the Mojave desert near Blythe, California, according to the US Department of the Interior.

The massive project will generate over 1,000 construction jobs, before requiring 295 permanent staff to maintain the solar thermal plant. The Blythe site will be the first of four solar thermal plant developments that will eventually produce 2,800 megawatts of electricity, powering up to two million homes in the region.

“The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation’s renewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future,” said Salazar. “This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home.”

Salazar giving the go ahead to the project will mean that Solar Millennium can now be offered a right of way grant by the Bureau of Land Management, meaning that it is entitled to use 7,000 acres of public land for the next 30 years. It can also secure a vital $1.9 billion of loan funding from the US Department for Energy.

“With the approval of the Blythe project, the solar projects approved on BLM public lands in the last few weeks have the potential to generate up to 2,800 megawatts of renewable energy. That’s enough to power up to 2 million homes. We have truly arrived at America’s new energy frontier,” said Bob Abbey, Director of BLM.

However, as it always seems to happen, just when you think you have announced the biggest solar plant project in the world, someone else comes along and announces plans for an even bigger one. Typical!

Jonathan De Vries, a special adviser to the energy minister, has announced that South Africa is aiming to utilise the Northern Cape province which is in the top three percent for the most consistently sunny regions in the world.  If the proposed scheme, to be run by construction firm Fluor, goes ahead it will provide 5,000 megawatts of power – almost doubling the Californian output.

“I’d hate to make a large claim but yes, this would be the biggest solar park in the world,” De Vries said to The Guardian.