Major Solar Projects Get OK


"They expect to produce 400 megawatts, enough to power more than 140,000 homes."

Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar gave final approval for a huge project at Ivanpah Valley, California. Private (for the moment) company BrightSource Energy Inc. will begin constructing the world's largest system of solar mirrors—or heliostats. Three solar towers will create the energy to drive generators to produce electricity for southern California.

And the electricity they expect to produce is impressive—400 megawatts, enough to power more than 140,000 homes and directly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tons a year.

In his announcement, Salazar mentioned benefits like job creation, revitalizing the local economy, and promoting energy independence, in addition to taking a giant step toward clean energy and a reduction in the carbon footprint.

Friday morning, SolarReserve—another private California holding that's developing utility-scale solar power projects—announced it is moving forward on the Rice Solar Energy Project (RSEP). This decision results from the recent approval given by the California Public Utilities Commission to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for a 25-year power purchase agreement.

RSEP will provide 150 megawatts of power. According to SolarReserve estimates, that equal about 450,000 megawatt-hours of power and be enough to supply clean

The company is using an advanced molten salt system under exclusive worldwide license from United Technologies Corp.

A U.S. Department of Energy test successfully demonstrated the molten salt process in California over 10 years ago. That test was conducted at a 10-megawatt pilot plant designed and constructed by Rocketdyne (now part of United Technologies Corp.).

Frankly, these are exciting developments for us investors. But you need to keep them in perspective.

The rising players of note in the sector remain private companies; capital investment is still a problem. Nonetheless, advances are happening. . .

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