Abengoa Solar Gets Approved by Ken Salazar, Military

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The Abengoa Mojave Solar Project that we covered two years ago when it signed a 600 gigawatthour annual power contract with PG&E has just got the BLM permit approval for its 250 MW solar thermal project in California, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today. In several hurdles jumped recently, a few days ago, the Department of Defense gave it the OK. The project will not impact military missions. Next up is the EPA permit.

Last month the project got a loan guarantee, to make it easier for it to get financing. A federal loan guarantee means the government will back a private loan (of up to $1.2 billion in this case) which the company would get from a private lender. Barring a catastrophic solar spill, of course, chances are this is a pretty safe bet for us taxpayers to back.

The project will be constructed on previously disturbed, fallow agricultural land, thus avoiding all the supposed “impacts to pristine desert lands” that have so shortsightedly been used to slow the adoption of more renewable energy.

This is one of the few solar thermal projects to be approved. Unlike solar PV, all types of solar thermal use steam to drive a turbine. In Abengoa’s type of solar thermal, long troughs made of parabolic mirrors are arranged to track the sun’s movement continually through the day, concentrating the solar radiation onto a heat absorbing pipe at the focal point. A heat transfer fluid circulating in the pipe reaches temperatures of more than 700 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat is then used to generate steam that drives a conventional turbine.

Every year, the project will cut an estimated 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the nation’s carbon emissions, according to Department of Energy figures. The company estimates that it will have a construction payroll of $272 million and will spend about $121 million locally in Southern California on materials and equipment.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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