World”s largest solar energy project breaks ground in S. California

Published: 19/06/2011 05:00



The Blythe Solar Power Project, the largest solar energy plant in the world, broke ground Friday in Riverside County, Southern California.

The project will bring thousands of construction jobs to Riverside County and help California obtain 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, California Governor Jerry Brown said during the ground-breaking ceremony.

“It makes sense to power California with renewable wind and solar energy that protects air and water and promotes energy independence,” Brown said. “Renewable energy projects also stimulate business investment in California and create thousands of new jobs.”

Brown also called for fiscal discipline and investment in a green economy for the state’s future.

“We’re going to be the world leader in solar energy,” Brown said.

The estimated cost of the plant is 4 billion U.S. dollars. The U.S. Department of Energy has pledged a 2.1-billion-dollar loan guarantee to support it, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who attended the ceremony with Brown.

The first phase of construction will put 1,000 people to work and create hundreds of permanent jobs, while the second phase will do the same, Salazar said, adding that when finished, the plant will generate enough electricity to power 300,000 homes.

What will be the world’s largest solar power plant is a major milestone in the nation’s march toward a renewable energy world and a more stable economy, Salazar said.

He said his department is working on 19 renewable energy projects on public lands with a goal “to secure the energy future” of the country.

“We will give priority to these projects,” Salazar said.

Most of the projects are in the West. California’s 270 total renewable energy projects, including the Blythe Solar Power and Terragen’s Alta-Oak Creek wind power project (also the world’s largest wind project), are estimated to create 5,390 new construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs in California, Brown said.

Upon completion, these power plants will generate 3,470 megawatts of energy, or six percent of California’s peak energy requirement, which is enough to power more than 1.4 million single-family homes, he said.

In 2010, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies surveyed 12 solar, wind, and geothermal projects and found an average of 4,258 jobs would be created per month during construction.

Skilled and non-skilled trades needed to work on these projects include ironworkers, teamsters, plumbers and pipefitters, cement masons, electricians, operating engineers, managers and general laborers.

These projects would also bring nearly 1,000 long-term operation and maintenance jobs to California.

In April 2011, Brown signed the bill SBX1-2, which requires that one third of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.

The Blythe Project represents a significant step toward meeting state requirements to obtain 33 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

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