CA Solar Plants In Race To Qualify For Expiring Federal Subsidy

In one of the most remarkable spurts of renewable energy investment in the U.S., six solar plants have been approved in six weeks in the California desert totaling almost 3 gigawatts. More are on the way, including new Stirling dish technology.
October 4, 2010, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The developers are also encouraged by the adoption of a new regulation to have 33% of the state's energy come from renewable sources by 2020 and a new law that requires utilities "to bank a portion of the electricity they generate."

"Regulators and developers are racing to put shovels to ground before the end of the year when federal incentives for large renewable energy projects will expire. The loss of federal incentives could threaten the financial viability of some of the solar projects.

Since Aug. 25, the energy commission has licensed six solar thermal power plants that would cover some 39 square miles of desert land and generate 2,829 megawatts. That's nearly six times as much solar capacity as was installed in the United States last year, mostly from rooftop solar panels.

Tessera Solar's Imperial Valley project, on the other hand, will be the first big test of Stirling dish technology. Resembling a giant mirrored satellite receiver, the 38-foot-high, 40-foot-wide solar dish focuses the sun's rays on a Stirling engine, heating hydrogen gas to drive pistons that generate 25 kilowatts of electricity. Some 29,000 of Tessera's Suncatchers will be installed on more that 6,400 acres of desert land near the Mexican border about 100 miles east of San Diego." [See photos].

Thanks to California League of Conservation Voters Newsroom

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Published on Thursday, September 30, 2010 in Grist
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