This BrightSource photo show how fields of mirrors focus solar energy on receivers at the top of a tower. Boilers produce steam that turn turbines to create power for the electrical grid.

First Solar Power Tower OK'd on Federal Land

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on 3,471 acres of land on the California/Nevada border. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hailed the technology in AIHce's opening keynote speech this year.

The solar power tower technology touted by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during his keynote speech at the start of this year's American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo in Denver will get its U.S. start south of Las Vegas on 3,471 acres of federal land in the Mojave Desert. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Thursday announced his approval of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System by BrightSource Energy of Oakland, Calif., saying the project will produce as much as 370 megawatts of clean energy and about 1,100 new jobs. Ivanpah is about 50 miles northwest of Needles, Calif., and 5 miles from the California/Nevada border.

The Bureau of Land Management reduced the size of the BrightSource's proposed project of three solar plants by 15 percent, from 4,073 acres down to 3,471 acres, and also reduced its solar mirrors from 214,000 to 173,500. Salazar had announced approval earlier this week of two other California power-generating projects on federal land, together totaling 754 megawatts, that use different solar technologies.

"Ivanpah is one of several renewable energy projects in the pipeline that will help California and this nation build a clean energy economy," Salazar said Thursday. "With this project, we are making great strides toward meeting the president's goals for creating new jobs for American workers, reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy independence, and strengthening our national security."

The decision signed by Salazar authorizes BLM to offer BrightSource a right-of-way grant to use the public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met. BrightSource has been awarded $1.37 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy for the project, which has completed environmental reviews that began in late 2007. The technology uses fields of mirrors to focus solar energy on power tower receivers. Steam from boilers in the towers drives a turbine that generates electricity. The department said construction of all three phases is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

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