Monday, January 3, 2011

New Plans for Solar Thermal in California

This past year represented a "sea change" as regulators ended a 20-year dry spell and fast-tracked solar-thermal plant approval helping drive the state's and nation's broader renewable-energy goals.
Developers were rushing to meet a December 31 deadline for federal incentives but Congress surprisingly extended that deadline for federal funding by another year.
The California Energy Commission approved nine solar-thermal plants, which are solar plants that concentrate heat before converting it into electricity. More commonplace photovoltaic plants typically use panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity.
Before 2010, government regulators had yet to approve any of the projects to build solar-thermal plant in California since a series of plants known as the Solar Energy Generating Systems, built mostly in the 1980’s. There are currently two solar-thermal projects under review. The 250-megawatt plants would eventually power at least 75,000 homes but environmental scientists need to conduct a two-year study of the rare Mohave Ground Squirrel at the site before proceeding with its application.
The second is under development by the city of Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. It would combine natural gas-fired turbine technology with solar technology, eventually generating 570 megawatts of power. Developers of many of the nine plants approved in 2010 haven't yet started construction as they wait to firm up environmental issues and financing.

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