California dominates Big Solar development.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Dreams of a Small Solar Renaissance were rattled this summer, with the collapse of a financing program that would have helped property owners put photovoltaic panels on their roofs.
But it's boom time for Big Solar, the corporate mega-solar farms that can rival the energy output of gas- and coal-fired power plants.
California utilities are under a state mandate to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources this year, and 33 percent by 2020—a driving force for private-sector solar development. Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to offer stimulus funds and fast-track permitting for large-scale solar development in Southern California deserts.
Three such projects in San Bernardino and Imperial counties—totaling almost 2,000 megawatts, which would more than triple the U.S.’s current solar output—have been issued final environmental impact statements from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. And one, a 250-megawatt solar thermal plant on edge of the Mojave Desert, has just been approved by the California Energy Commission.
Five other Cali solar projects, adding up to more than 2,500 megawatts, are on track to follow suit by the end of the year, according to a recent Greenwire report. (Desert conservationists concerned about habitat loss have been vocal critics.)
Closer to home, the Solargen proposal for a 420-megawatt photovoltaic array in San Benito County's Panoche Valley is nearing the end of the public comment period for its draft environmental impact report.