Solar plant planned in California desert

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – BrightSource Energy Inc, a private solar energy company, said on Thursday it filed for a construction permit from the California Energy Commission to build a 400-megawatt solar power plant in the Mojave Desert.

The project would cover between 3,000 and 3,500 acres near the Nevada border about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas and use solar thermal technology to generate electricity at two 100 MW plants and one 200 MW plant.

The planned technology will use thousands of small mirrors to reflect sunlight on boilers atop 300-foot-tall towers, said Charles Ricker, a senior vice president at BrightSource. The sunlight would heat water to produce steam to run turbines.

The technology was developed by BrightSource subsidiary Luz II, which built power plants in the Mojave in the 1980s.

The site is on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the company has applied to the agency for a right-of-way grant.

BLM already has received right-of-way requests on more than 300,000 acres of California desert for development of about 34 large solar plants totaling 24,000 MW.

That would be about half of the electricity consumed in California on a hot summer day.

BrightSource has responded to power purchase solicitations by three California utilities — PG&E Corp’s Pacific Gas & Electric unit, Edison International’s EIX.N Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric, a unit of Sempra Energy SRE.N.

Ricker said the project would be built in three stages, with 2010 the target for the first plant. Development costs were not disclosed.

The Oakland-based company said it was working with the California Independent System Operator, which manages 80 percent of the state power grid, to determine availability of transmission lines.

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