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Solar projects in California desert could help state’s energy problems

Solar power projects in California desert could help state’s energy problems

Solar projects in California desert could help state’s energy problems
Rhett A. Butler,
November 17, 2005

Two large solar projects in the desert of California could boost industrial-scale development of solar technology according to an article in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Last month California regulators approved a project that could eventually produce 500 megawatts of electricity, doubling the state’s solar capacity and providing enough power to meet the daytime needs of 300,000 homes. The project, planned by Phoenix-based Stirling Energy Systems Inc., would cover four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville, California and use 20,000 solar dishes.

A second project, also involving Stirling as well as San Diego Gas & Electric, is awaiting state approval. The plan calls for a 300-megawatt solar project in the Imperial Valley, east of San Diego, and could be expanded to 900 megawatts.

“If the two big projects are successful, they are likely to inspire more utility-scale solar projects elsewhere in the arid Southwest, where the population is growing rapidly” writes Rebecca Smith, author of the Journal article. She continues, “They would help solar energy take an important step forward, much like what happened in the early 1900s to the conventional power industry when it went from tiny generators supplying power to single sites to “central station” plants furnishing juice to thousands of customers.”

Challenges facing large-scale solar development include ramping up the manufacturing process to mass production, environmental concerns and land prices since solar dishes require a lot of land, and transmission issues. Nevertheless, California’s goal is to obtain at least 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010, up from the current level of about 12%. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he wants California to achieve a 33% target by 2020.

This article uses information, excerpts, and quotes from an article in The Wall Street Journal. The article appeared on Nov. 17, 2005 and is available to subscribers at

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