California approves 250 MW thermal solar plant
California regulators have approved a license for the nation's first large-scale solar thermal power plant in two decades.
The licensing of the 250-megawatt Beacon Solar Energy Project after a two-and-a-half-year environmental review comes as several other big solar farms are set to receive approval from the California Energy Commission.
"I hope this is the first of many more large-scale solar projects we will permit," said Jeffrey D. Byron, a member of the California Energy Commission, at a hearing in Sacramento. "This is exactly the type of project we want to see."
Developers and regulators have been racing to license solar power plants and begin construction before the end of the year, when federal incentives for such renewable energy projects expire. California's three investor-owned utilities also face a deadline to obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010.
Still, it has been a long slog as solar power plants planned for the Mojave Desert have become bogged down in disputes over their impact on protected wildlife and scarce water supplies.
In March 2008, NextEra Energy Resources filed an application to build the Beacon project on 2,012 acres of former farmland in Kern County. Long rows of mirrored parabolic troughs will focus sunlight on liquid-filled tubes to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine.
"It's been a lengthy process, an almost embarrassingly long lengthy process," said Scott Busa, NextEra's Beacon project manager, at Wednesday's hearing. "Hopefully, we're going from a lengthy process to a timely process."
Mr. Busa says that NextEra was in the final stages of negotiating a power purchase agreement.
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