The electricity generated in Blythe 1 and 2 will be purchased by the US utility Southern California Edison (SCE).

At a festive celebration on Friday, US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, California’s Governor Jerry Brown and Joseph DeConinck, the mayor of Blythe, broke ground on the Blythe solar power plant facility together with representatives of Solar Millennium (ISIN DE0007218406) and Solar Trust of America. Early construction works for the first two power plants with a net capacity of 242 megawatts (MW) each, commenced at the end of 2010. Solar Trust of America, the American company unit within the Solar Millennium Group, plans to build up to four solar-thermal power plants with an overall capacity of about 1,000 megawatt at this location. The four power plants combined are to supply enough electricity for more than 300,000 American households and thus save some two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. The fact that the Californian Mojave desert is among the world’s best solar energy locations was proven during the ceremony, which featured an outdoor temperature of 113 °F (45 °C).

“Breaking ground on what will be the world’s largest 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 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home and contribute to our nation’s energy security.”

Dr. Christoph Wolff, CEO of Solar Millennium AG, adds, “Blythe marks not only a milestone for Solar Millennium, but also for the successful history of solar energy in general. For the first time, we are utilizing solar energy with capacities equaling those of nuclear power or major coal-fired power plants. I am pleased that we are able to make our contribution to reaching California’s ambitious climate targets as well as supporting the local economy. I would like to thank all those persons, who contributed to this achievement through their unceasing commitment and trust”. The overall investment sum for the first two solar-thermal power plants projected in Blythe amounts to roughly USD 2.8 billion.

Only a few weeks ago, US Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, had offered the project company the conditional commitment for a USD 2.1 billion loan guarantee. The loan guarantees are the precondition for financing some 75% of construction costs of the first two 242 MW power plants with borrowed capital. The conditional commitment defines the covenants to be met by the applicant in order to receive the loan guarantees granted by the US Department of Energy (DOE). The Executive Board of Solar Millennium assumes that the Company will manage to meet all of these conditions, particularly the financial close for both power plants, by late summer this year.

Solar Trust of America expects to create some 1,000 direct jobs during the construction phase and several thousand indirect jobs through supplier relations. The two power plants are to be connected to the grid by 2014. The final building permit for all of the four power plants projected at the Blythe location had already been granted in autumn 2010.

The electricity generated in Blythe 1 and 2 will be purchased by the US utility Southern California Edison (SCE). As such, SCE meets the requirements by the state of California to increase the share of renewable energies in total power production. Since the beginning of the year, the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) force the Californian utilities to cover 33% of power generation with renewable energies by 2020.

Solar Millennium AG, Erlangen, (ISIN DE0007218406) is an international company in the renewable energy sector, with its main focus on solar-thermal power plants. Together with its subsidiaries and associates, the Company specializes in parabolic trough power plants and has managed to take a globally leading position in this field. Solar Millennium strives to further extend its expertise in the area of solar-thermal power plants with the aim of achieving and securing sustainable technology leadership. As such, the Company covers all important business sectors along the value chain for solar-thermal power plants: from project development and financing to the technology and the turnkey construction and operation of power plants. In Spain, Solar Millennium developed Europe’s first parabolic trough power plants and realized these together with partners. Additional projects are planned around the world with an overall capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts: here the current regional focus is on Spain, the US, the Middle East and North Africa.

Solar Trust of America (STA) is a joint venture of the Solar Millennium Group (70%) and the Ferrostaal Inc. (30%) and covers important business fields in the value chain for solar thermal power plants in the region of North America. This includes the business segments of project development and financing, engineering, turn-key construction and operation of power plants. Solar Millennium LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Solar Trust of America.

Solar-thermal power plants generate electricity by converting solar radiation into heat energy. In a parabolic trough power plant, trough-shaped mirrors concentrate the incidental radiation onto a pipe in the focal line of the collector. Its absorption heats a fluid heat medium in the pipe, generating steam in the power block through a heat exchanger. As in conventional power plants, the steam powers a turbine to generate electricity. By integrating thermal storage, electricity can be supplied on demand, even after sunset.