Blythe Solar Power Project, a 1,000-megawatt installation in California’s Riverside County is switching from concentrated solar power to photovoltaics. Concentrating solar power uses parabolic dishes to heat up water and make steam which is used to spin a turbine for generating electricity. The decreasing cost of photovoltaic solar panels has made them more affordable, so the project will use them instead of CSP.
The parabolic troughs used in CSP could cost the project about $5.79 a watt, whereas the photovoltaics might only cost $3.40 per watt. The first 500 megawatts will used photovoltaics instead of CSP, and it sounds as if the remaining 500 might also, due to decreasing PV costs.
“We develop solar projects of the size, scale, and scope of the largest conventional power plants in order to propel solar energy forward as a mainstream source of clean energy. By managing a sophisticated domestic solar supply chain to service both solar thermal and PV projects throughout the American Southwest we drive down the cost of solar and generate valuable jobs throughout the country,” said Uwe Schmidt, CEO of Solar Trust of America. (Source: Solar Millenium) STA is the U.S. subsidiary of the Germany-based Solar Millenium.
Thinkprogress commented on the decreasing PV costs with a succinct encapsulation, “On that trajectory – even without additional cost reductions in modules – achieving a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for solar of 13 cents/kWh across a wide range of U.S. of markets is within sight. And if we can get module prices down to 70 cents a watt (which is very realistic), an LCOE of 8 cents/kWh in the next 4-5 years is very attainable.” (Source: Thinkprogress.org)
The Blythe plant has met with some controversy due to the presence of endangered tortoises. Thousands of acres of their habitat will be disturbed by the installation. Solar Millenium agreed to fund protection of 8,000 acres of habitat for the tortoises.
The first phase of the project should see electricity being generated there and delivered to customers by early 2013. It is expected several hundred thousand homes will receive the electricity.
Governor Jerry Brown said, “We’re going to be the world leader in solar energy. Yes, I vetoed the budget. Yes, we will have fiscal discipline. [But] we can have more wealth if we have the discipline, if we have the imagination and are willing to do the hard work.” (Source: energydigital.com)
Image Credit: Jeremy Levine Design