World’s Largest Solar Thermal Power Project Approved in California

Solar power advocates scored a big win this week with news that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved Blythe
Solar Power Project–the largest solar thermal power facility in the world, and one of the eight solar projects we highlighted last month. Blythe is also the first parabolic trough solar facility approved on
U.S. public land. But is it environmentally kosher?

The Riverside County, California facility, which will feature four 250 MW plant that  deliver 1,000 MW of generating capacity (enough to power 300,000 homes), is only the sixth project to be approved on public lands. The project received the blessing of the Natural Resources Defense Council–a big boost from the environmentalist community.

“We completed a series of environmental impact reports and met all the state requirements,” explains Andrea Elliott, Senior Communications Manager for Solar Millennium. “We made a point of talking to some environmental organizations in the area  and collaborating with them on the plan.”

That collaboration led Solar Millennium to offer funding for 8,000 acres of habitat that will support species like the bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, and western burrowing owl — despite the fact that only four desert tortoises were found on the 7,025 acre project site (they are being relocated). The company can certainly afford it–the Blythe project will cost a staggering $6 million to build. Construction may begin as soon as next month.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS