California Solar Equivalent to a Nuclear Plant Is Given Green Light. Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

The U.S.  Secretary of the Interior has given the green light to several alternative energy solar thermal parabolic plants in the California desert. These solar plants will have a combined capacity around 1,000 megawatts of electricity or the equivalent of a nuclear power plant. The project means more jobs and the air will be a little cleaner in the SW in the years to come.

A parabolic solar trough is a huge, curved mirror that sits on a motorized base, allowing it to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. The mirror’s unique parabolic shape is designed to gather a great deal of solar sunlight and then reflect that light onto a single point, concentrating the solar power. This type of solar thermal renewable energy is the very model of green power.

A receiver tube sits at the point where the mirror concentrates all the sunlight. The tube is filled with a synthetic heat transfer oil, heated by the mirror’s light to around 750 F. This superheated oil is then pumped from the solar field to a nearby power block, where the oil’s heat is converted to high-pressure steam in a series of heat exchangers. This steam pushes a conventional steam turbine, creating electricity.

Solar Millennium AG, the German maker of parabolic solar-power equipment, moved closer to starting construction on power plants in Nevada and California after U.S. authorities gave the projects a green light reported in Bloomberg News.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a right-of-way grant for Solar Millennium’s commercial plant in Nevada’s Amargosa Valley and a committee of the California Energy Commission recommended granting approval for two solar-thermal generators, the company said in a statement on the Frankfurt exchange newswire.

Solar Millennium develops and produces solar parabolic-shaped collectors that concentrate sunlight using arrays of mirrors to make steam and turn electric turbines. The U.S. southwest and Spain, with some of the world’s highest solar radiation levels, are attracting the most investment in the technology, which is also called concentrated solar power.

The Nevada and California projects would have a combined capacity to produce 1,000 megawatts of solar electricity, about equivalent to one nuclear plant.

California regulators in July approved Southern California Edison Co.’s contract to buy two 242-megawatt facilities that will use solar parabolic-trough technology from Solar Millennium. The project, known as CA Solar 10, will be built near Blythe by Solar Trust of America LLC, a joint venture product between Solar Millennium and German contractor Man Ferrostaal AG.