UPDATE 2-BrightSource wins OK for California solar plant

* BrightSource plant will go live 2012

* Latest project to win greenlight in California (Adds details on California projects and BrightSource plant, byline)

LOS ANGELES, Sept 22 (Reuters) - BrightSource Energy Inc won approval on Wednesday for a $1 billion-plus, 370 megawatt solar energy plant in southern California, the latest in a string of large-scale projects approved in the most populous U.S. state.

The California Energy Commission gave the go-ahead for the plant, which will employ solar thermal technology in Ivanpah, near the border with Nevada. It would begin producing energy at the end of 2012.

BrightSource’s plant still needs approval from the Bureau of Land Management, which is scheduled to vote on the plant next month. It will cost about $1.1 billion, or about $2,800 per kilowatt, according to industry sources. In contrast, it costs about $900 per kW to build a combined-cycle natural gas plant and about $1,800 per kW to build an onshore wind turbine.

The plant already has preliminary approval from the Department of Energy for $1.37 billion in key loan guarantees. It has deals to sell about two-thirds of the energy the plant produces to Pacific Gas & Electric Co PCG_pa.A, and one-third to Southern California Edison Co SCE_pe.A.

Oakland, California-based BrightSource develops and builds solar plants. Its investors include, the philanthropy and investment arm of Google Inc GOOG.O, BP Plc's BP.L BP Alternative Energy, and Chevron's CVX.N Chevron Technology Ventures.

A clutch of other large-scale solar plants in California -- which has the country’s toughest renewable energy mandates -- still await DOE consideration of their loan guarantee applications, considered crucial to financing. For a FACTBOX on proposed solar power plants in California see [ID:nN05275617]

San Francisco-based contractor Bechtel Corp will build the plant, which will house three power towers, down from the seven previously proposed.

California has ambitious goals to produce a fifth of its energy from renewable sources as part of the country’s toughest renewable energy mandates. On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board will vote on a regulation that would extend the goal to 33 percent, granting a long-term boost to the industry. [ID:nN22192448]

The state has approved several large-scale solar plants in recent weeks, including a 1,000 mW plant from Chevron Corp and Solar Millennium AG S2MG.DE last week. That plant will be located in Blythe, California. (Editing by Edwin Chan and Richard Chang)