As California utility companies struggle to obtain 20% of their total energy from renewable sources by the end of 2010, the nations first solar thermal power plant in two decades was approved for Kern County, California. The thumbs up from state regulators comes after a two and a half year environmental review that made sure the effects of the construction would be minimal on wildlife and that the water obtained for the plant would not deplete the area’s already meager supply. When built, the Beacon Solar Energy Project will supply 250-megawatts of clean green power to the grid.

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I hope this is the first of many more large-scale solar projects we will permit,” said Jeffrey Byron, of the California Energy Commission, at a Sacramento hearing this past Wednesday. He added that the Beacon Solar Energy Project was “exactly the type of project we want to see.” Federal incentives for building large scale renewable energy plants will expire at the end of the year and many companies are struggling to get their projects approved before that deadline. The Beacon project was just one of many such projects in California in legislative limbo.

NextEra Energy Resources is building the Beacon Project on about 2,000 acres of farmland in Kern County. The plant will be made up of long rows of parabolic troughs of reflective panels that heat a long circuit of liquid-filled tubing that will generate steam to drive electricity generating turbines. There was a huge dispute in the communities surrounding the project area about where the 521 million gallons of water needed annually for the project would come from. A final comprimise came as developers agreed to pipe in grey water from a nearby town. Looks like a great deal – a promising new project, recycled water and green power for the California grid.

Via The New York Times