Clean energy research and development has seen huge gains since the Obama administration came into power in the United States government. The latest, and perhaps the largest, example of this to date is set to unfold in California’s Mojave Desert, it was announced today. The U.S. Department of Energy said it has conditionally awarded BrightSource Energy, a developer of utility-scale solar thermal power plants, more than $1.37 billion in loan guarantees under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to construct the world’s largest solar energy project.

The massive Ivanpah project, once fully completed by 2013, will reportedly nearly double the amount of American solar energy generated today. It will bring online three separate solar plants, which will together generate approximately 400 megawatts (MW) of electricity to be sold under separate contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). It is estimated this project will produce enough clean energy to power 140,000 homes as well as provide nearly 1,000 union jobs at the peak of construction. It will also reportedly provide $400 million in local and state tax revenues, and produce $650 million in wages, over its first 30-year life.

Brightsource Ivanpah
image via BrightSource Energy

Environmental benefits of this project are said to include avoiding 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year and cutting major air pollutants by 85% compared to new natural gas-fired power plants. Partners with Brightsource on this project, besides the DoE and utilities, include Bechtel as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor and Siemens as a provider for the “largest ever solar-powered steam turbine generator for the Ivanpah project.” Construction is slated to begin “in the second half of 2010 following issuance of permits by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.”

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