By signing the Record of Decision, US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the right of way grant for the Solar Millennium Group's solar power plant facility in Nevada's Amargosa Valley.
This approval marks an important pre-condition for the successful completion of the permitting process for the construction of two parabolic trough power plants as scheduled. Together, the two power plants will have a total capacity of approximately 500 megawatts (MW). Part of the electricity generated there will be supplied to Las Vegas, which is some 150 kilometers away. The planned thermal storage facilities will enable the two plants to supply the region with electricity even after the sun has set.
Based on the approval by the US Secretary of the Interior, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has granted Solar Millennium LLC, Oakland, the American project development unit within the Solar Millennium Group, the right of way for public land at the Amargosa location. Due to the proximity to the Amargosa River, Solar Millennium must additionally seek approval with regards to the Water Clean Act from other U.S. authorities to obtain the final construction approval.
In announcing the Record of Decision, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said," This solar facility is yet another critical component in the Department's growing renewable energy portfolio as we work to create strengthen our nation's energy security. Our commitment to the development of clean, renewable energy is creating new jobs that will aid in our economic recovery, protect our environment and transform the way our nation gets our energy."
In California another project location has taken an important hurdle in the approval process, as well. Last Friday, the responsible committee of the California Energy Commission (CEC) had recommended granting Solar Millennium LLC approval for the construction and operation of two solar-thermal power plants with a total capacity of about 500 MW at the Palen location in California. In its recommendation the committee had established that the planned power plants complied with the applicable laws, regulations and requirements, as was also the case with the Blythe project. The CEC will probably make its final decision on the construction permit after the expiry of a public comment period in mid-December.
Oliver Blamberger, CFO of Solar Millennium AG, said the company is pleased with the progress: "The two locations in Blythe and the Amargosa valley alone suffice to fill our order books for the years to come and make Solar Millennium the leading supplier of parabolic trough power plants." Regarding the financing of the two power plants in Nevada, Blamberger added, "In line with the financing structure of Blythe 1 and 2, an equity ratio of 20 to 30 percent is also planned for the Amargosa power plants. As with Blythe, we have already applied for the respective loan guarantees with the US Department of Energy in order to secure the debt capital."
Uwe T. Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Solar Trust of America, illustrates the significance of the solar power plants for the economy in Nevada. "The construction of these two plants is not only another important milestone on the path towards sustainably converting our U.S. energy supply, but it also makes a very important contribution to reviving the local economy in Nevada. Solar Millennium expects to create more than 1,300 jobs at the Amargosa Valley location during construction, while the two power plants will provide more than 180 permanent operations and maintenance jobs once completed.
With a generating capacity of approximately 500 MW and thermal storage volume for 4.5 hours per plant, the two power plants will produce enough energy to power up 150,000 America homes on a reliable basis. In 2009, the company had already signed memorandum of understanding on a potential power purchase agreement with the utility Nevada Energy.
Josef Eichhammer, President of Solar Trust of America and CEO of Solar Millennium LLC remarks: "US politicians have it high on their agenda that California and Nevada take a leading position in utilizing the abundant solar resource for electricity generation and building up a solar industry and therefore we are very happy today to make a contribution with our planned innovative power plants to realize such objectives. Our decision to plan a power plant with dry cooling also helps to accelerate the approval process, as we need 90% less water to cool the steam cycle. We will now intensify our negotiations with utilities regarding the power purchase agreements as well as our engagement with the permitting authorities for the two plants, so we will be able to commence construction for both projects by the end of 2011."