Regulators in California have approved a license for the first large-scale solar thermal plant to be built in the United States in twenty years.
After a 2 ½ year-long environmental review, the Beacon Solar Energy Project will be constructed on a 2,012 acre plot of former farmland. Solar thermal plants generate electricity by using long trays of parabolic mirror to reflect the sun’s rays and heat a tube of liquid. The super-heated liquid then creates stem to fire a turbine which generates electricity.
“I hope this is the first of many more large-scale solar projects we will permit. This is exactly the type of project we want to see,” said an Energy Commission member.
However, the Beacon project still has more hurdles to overcome, including environmental concerns about impact on limited water supplies and vulnerable wildlife. Beacon must also secure a contract to sell the electricity they generate. The project supporters are optimistic about obtaining this type of contract, considering California’s utilities are required to purchase 20% of the electricity from renewable sources by 2020.