The federal government has approved a 110-megawatt solar power plant planned for a site near Tonopah, southern Nevada.

US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed off a Record of Decision yesterday for the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, being developed by California-based developer SolarReserve.
The facility is designed to provide enough renewable energy to supply 75,000 households with electricity, using solar thermal power technology.
SolarReserve is aiming to begin construction on the plant mid-2011, with some equipment already being built for the facility, which will use a field of mirrors (known as heliostats) to focus sunlight on a central power tower, where the heat will be used to generate steam, driving a generator turbine.
The Department of the Interior said the project would support 450 direct jobs in construction and 50 permanent operation and maintenance jobs, with a $5 million operating budget once complete. It should also provide $40 million in sales and property taxes over its lifetime.
Secretary of the Interior Salazar said: “Using American ingenuity, we are creating jobs, stimulating local economies and spurring a sustainable, clean energy industrial base that will strengthen our nation’s energy security.”

SolarReserve’s solar energy technology was developed in the US by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation.

The facility has the ability to capture and store enough thermal energy each morning to provide electricity at full power all afternoon and for up to eight hours after sunset, offering a more consistent power supply than other types of renewable energy.
SolarReserve is to sell power from the plant to Nevada power company NV Energy through a 25-year power purchase agreement signed last December.
Kevin Smith, CEO of Santa Monica-based SolarReserve, said: “In addition to the Department of Interior’s activities on this Record of Decision, the Department of Energy is processing the project through the DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program. Completing this project will establish this American technology as the leading solution worldwide for solar energy with integrated energy storage.”