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DOI approves 1GW solar power project; largest yet on US public lands

The US Department of the Interior has approved the 1,000 MW Blythe Solar Power Project, the largest solar energy project yet to be built on US public lands. The project, proposed by Palo Verde Solar I, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, LLC, will cover 7,025 acres of public lands eight miles west of Blythe in Riverside County, California. It is expected to create 1,066 jobs at the peak of construction and 295 permanent jobs.

The Blythe Solar Power Project uses parabolic trough technology in which rows of parabolic mirrors focus solar energy on collector tubes. The tubes carry heated oil to a boiler, which sends live steam to a turbine to produce electricity. A new 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line will be constructed to connect the Blythe Solar Project to the Devers-Palo Verde #2 500 kV line at the Colorado River substation.

The decision authorizes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer Solar Millennium a right-of-way grant (ROW) to use these public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met.

Earlier this month, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the first five renewable energy projects ever on public lands—Imperial Valley Solar Project, Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and the Calico Solar Project, all in California; and the Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Solar Millennium is eligible to secure $1.9 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy for this project.

The project has undergone environmental review, starting with public scoping in November 2009, followed by a draft environment impact statement (EIS) in March 2010 and a final EIS August 20, 2010.

BLM is requiring that Solar Millennium provide funding for more than 8,000 acres of desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat to mitigate the project’s impacts.

In September, the project was licensed by the California Energy Commission, which regulates solar thermal projects in California that generate at least 50 megawatts.



That is 11 sq miles for 1GW of rated panel power. Since the sun doesn't shine for an entire day, you need about 2-3x the panel power to be comparable to a gas fired turbine.

The US installed electricity generating capacity is ~1,000 GW. So for solar to provide 10% of our electricity needs, we'd have to install 100 GW * 2.5 or 250 GW.
This would be 2500 sq miles or a nice patch of 50 x 50 miles.
That is doable, but is a major slice of land.

How much industrial roof space is there?


The area of land needed is relative: Someone once calulated that if the land now covered by Lake Mead was instead covered by PV panels it would generate 20 times more power than the Hoover dam.

"A 100-by-100-mile patch of land in Nevada could generate enough solar electricity to power the entire United States of America. And that ain’t no myth. If that area were broken up by state, that’s still only 17-by-17-mile plots of land. That space is available today in every state via rooftops, parking lots and abandoned industrial sites across the country." However even this much land would NOT be needed because solar energy would only be a PART of the mix. Your 50 x 50 miles is just 50 square miles per state.

Here's a wacky idea;


Yes, but many of those states have poor solar output. The above calculations are just to get 10% of the annual 4000 TWhr of electricity we use.

I agree that 100 x 100 is doable.

How much land is used by coal strip mines and their tailings?
How many square miles for corn farming?

the southwest is the ideal place to put these things.
100 miles is the distance from Phoenix to Tucson. It's a big chunk of land. The best places also are a bit isolated, so there's another problem. Sounds like a good candidate for a stimulus program.


Roof tops, parking lots and roads/highways and desert lands represent many times the space required to supply USA with 100% sun power. Of course, adjacent or nearby NG power plants would help on long nights and rainy days. Wind could also help, specially at night and winter times when winds are stronger.


Could you quantify your statement about roof tops? I've been looking for a solid number for rooftop space, but have only found bits and pieces.

It is much harder to get permitted to use desert land than you would think. This isn't the nearly lifeless Sahara. The Sonoran Desert and others have a lot of life in them, and it's quite amazing how hard it is to get a permit. Commercial Roof tops in the southwest, such as LA, would be ideal as that is also where the power is consumed.


A quick google will show you TM that power usage at 9PM is about half of that at 9AM.


About 100 sq.m of usable roof top per average single family home could each produce (5 x 120 watts x 100 = 60 Kwh/day). Multiply that by 40 000 000+ and you get 2400+ million Kwh/day. That's about 3 times what those residences current use. High rise + multi family buildings + commercial + public + factories and all other flat roofs have a higher potential than the 40 000 000 single family homes mentioned above and could produce another 2400+ million Kwh/day. That may not be enough for industrial USA but it could supply most of the energy required for residences and future electrified private vehicles.

The existing grid could be used to transport surpluses left and right.

With solar power, every body could charge their PHEVs/BEVs during peak hours. Overnight charges could be supplied by Wind generated enegy + NG power plants. Nuclear power plants could supply energy for Industrial USA and other base loads.


30 ft by 30 ft is a lot of area for a roof.
Many are tilted every which way, and many are facing the wrong way.
Furthermore, there is shadowing, etc.
That density is way too high.
Again, I'd like to see a solid calculated number for commercial rooftop space, not opinions. I still haven't seen any numbers calculated on data.




Go look for it yourself and report back.

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