U.S. approves world's biggest solar power project

WASHINGTON Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:03pm EDT

Solar panels sit on the roof of SunPower Corporation in Richmond, California March 18, 2010. SunPower is a San Jose, California-based maker of high-efficiency solar panels. REUTERS/Kim White

Solar panels sit on the roof of SunPower Corporation in Richmond, California March 18, 2010. SunPower is a San Jose, California-based maker of high-efficiency solar panels.

Credit: Reuters/Kim White

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Interior Department on Monday approved a permit for the world's biggest solar power project that will provide electricity to up to 750,000 homes.

The 1,000-megawatt project was proposed by a subsidiary of Solar Millennium AG and will be located on federal lands near Blythe, California.

"The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation's renewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future," said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The project fits with the Obama administration's efforts to have more U.S. electricity supplies generated by renewable energy sources like wind and solar power and create thousands of clean energy jobs in the process.

The project will consist of four concentrated solar electric generation facilities that would be able to produce up 1,000 megawatts of power. That is equal to the generation capacity of a large natural gas or coal-fired power plant.

Rows of curved mirrors will collect heat energy from the sum and refocus it on a tube at the focal point of the curved mirror.

Fluid in the tubes is heated to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The fluid is then piped through heat exchange to generate high pressure steam, which is fed to a turbine that generates electricity.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)