Solar power got a big boost this week with news that the U.S. government is guaranteeing $1.37 billion in loans to BrightSource Energy for the construction of three solar thermal plants in the Mojave Desert. The plants are expected to generate 400 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 140,000 homes — in what is being called the world’s largest solar energy project.

brightsource energy, solar power, solar thermal, solar energy, alternative energy, mojave desert, green design, sustainable design, renewable energy

BrightSource’s plants will generate power using heliostats that track the sun with mirrors. Sunlight from the heliostats is reflected onto a water-filled boiler placed on top of a tower. The boiler then produces steam that spins a turbine.

If all goes well with the permit process, BrightSource expects to start construction later this year, with an expected completion date of 2014 for all three plants. The plants should generate plenty of jobs — 1,000 positions during the construction phase and 86 permanent jobs. Of course, there are still some hurdles to overcome before the plants can be built. BrightSource has already been forced to scale back its solar thermal plant plans significantly because of concern for a rare tortoise.

+ BrightSource Energy

Via Washington Post