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California inches toward 300 megawatt solar plant

Ancient Mayans could care less

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The California Energy Commission has accepted a construction application from solar startup BrightSource Energy to build a 300 megawatt solar plant in the high desert — the first large solar thermal facility proposed for California in 16 years.

The 3,400-acre complex would be built near Ivanpah Dry Lake in San Bernardino County, near the Nevada border.

The commission voted 4-0 to begin a 12-month licensing process for the solar plant, gushing that the hundreds of pages detailing the construction proposal were "data adequate."

According to environmental blog Green Wombat, BrightSource uses a solar technology called "distributed power tower," which focuses fields of sun-tracking mirrors onto a tower containing a water-filled boiler and turbine. The company is currently building a 7-megawatt plant in Israel to show the technology to investors.

If the next step is approved by the commission, construction would begin in early 2009, and it's targeted for completion by late 2012. (Some ancient Mayans would argue the world will end on 2012, so it doesn't matter anyway.) Construction costs are estimated at $300m.

In 2004, the energy commission set the goal to have California generate at least 33 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. It's also managing $350m for new residential building construction to foster renewable energy projects between 2007 and 2011. ®

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