Tuesday, November 6, 2007

177 Megawatt Solar Project in SLO County Announced

PG&E and Ausra just announced a 177 megawatt solar thermal power plant in San Luis Obispo County. It will cover one square mile (640 acres) near the Carrizo Plain. Nifty!

The local paper has a good article here. It will be built on private land. Other coverage here, and elsewhere.

Ausra projects that the power plant will create over 350 skilled jobs on-site during construction, and an additional 100 permanent jobs in the area. The plant will burn no fuel, use minimal water, and have no air or water emissions.
The CPUC application and related documents are here and here.

It sounds like the deciding factor as to the location was the similar to what come up when deciding where to build a data center. You can build one in all sorts of places, but proximity to {major fiber routes, transmission lines} can be a deciding factor because it determines whether the project will have a reasonable cost and ultimately be a success.
John O’Donnell, executive vice president of Ausra, said the site identified for the plant, north of Highway 58, is ideal for the project.

“In developing large solar power plants, the biggest problem is not finding the sun or the land, but finding a place where you can transmit the power,’’ O’Donnell said. “And one of the real shaping things in serving PG&E is looking at the California electric grid and for places where we could put power into the grid. The Carrizo Plain is a major transmission line. That was one of the biggest drivers.’’


Although these agreements dwarf the deal with Ausra, New Energy Finance analyst Nathaniel Bullard said that Ausra is well-positioned.

Other solar thermal energy projects such as Solel’s Mojave Solar Park, to be constructed in California’s Mojave Desert, will be far away from populated areas and the electric grid. Ausra’s plant, to be located about ten miles north of Carrizo Plain National Monument, may get less sun than the Mojave Desert, but it will be directly under a PG&E transmission line, O’Donnell said.

Ausra’s proposed plant will only need “850 feet to connect,” said Bullard. They’ll be able to “tap right into the electric grid. It’s a lot less expensive and it speeds up the process.”

The high cost of the feeder and trunk lines required to connect to the grid from a long distance are often well outside of a smaller developer’s range.


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