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Concentrating On California Solar Power

June 14, 2011 - 4:22pm


Today, Secretary Chu announced conditional commitments for approximately $2 billion in loan guarantees to two California concentrating solar power plants. The projects are estimated to create nearly 1,800 jobs and will utilize advanced technologies which can help drive down the cost of solar power.

The two plants, the Mojave Solar Project in San Bernardino County, California and the Genesis Solar Project in Riverside County, California, are both “concentrating solar” plants, which means that they use mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area. The concentrated light is then converted to heat which drives a heat engine connected to an electrical power generator. This is different from photovoltaics, a different solar power process in which the sun's rays are converted directly into electricity using semiconductors.

Both of these concentrating solar plants will use new technologies that will make the process more efficient. Among them, the Mojave Solar Project will utilize a lighter, stronger frame designed to hold mirrors that are easier and less expensive to build and install and advanced mirror technology which will improve reflectivity and accuracy. In addition, its technological improvements combined will allow it to get more power from the sun.

Importantly, together these two California projects will double the United States' current concentrating solar capacity.

The Mojave Solar project sponsor, Abengoa Solar, estimates its project will create more than 830 construction jobs and 70 operating jobs.  NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, the Genesis Solar project sponsor, estimates its project will create approximately 800 construction jobs and 47 operating jobs.  

The Mojave Solar Project will avoid more than 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power over 53,000 homes, and the Genesis Solar Project is expected to avoid more than 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and produce enough electricity to power over 48,000 homes.  

By investing in these projects today, we're creating jobs, cleaning up the air we breathe, and creating the infrastructure and technology needed for the U.S. to lead in this century.