Taking advantage of the desert sun

Solar ventures slam Southwest

Construction on the world’s largest concentrated solar plant will begin in California by the end of this year, marking the sixth project to get the OK from the Obama administration to build on federally owned land, according to The Associated Press.

The $6 million project in the Mojave Desert near Blythe is expected to double all U.S. solar output and produce enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes when it is completed in 2013. As a part of last year’s economic-stimulus package, all projects that begin construction before Dec. 31 are eligible for a Treasury Department grant that could absorb up to 30 percent of the project’s cost.

Some environmentalists have expressed concern over developing the undisturbed land. Solar Millenium, the project’s Germany-based developer, will be required to fund conservation efforts for more than 8,000 acres of desert tortoise, Western burrowing owl, Bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat to minimize the project’s environmental impact.

The administration is expected to approve additional solar ventures before the year’s end.