The Fed’s Approve First Solar’s Massive 550-Megawatt Project in Desert Center, CA

Approved August 10th, 2011

New jobs are created with the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight project in the small town Desert Center near Coachella Valley.

Desert Sunlight is expected to generate 440 construction jobs and $336 million in economic impact for the county. The electricity it produces will power about 165,000 homes.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar gave the official go-ahead for Desert Sunlight on Wednesday, noting it is the largest photovoltaic project the department has approved to date.

The Department of Energy also has cleared the project for a conditional loan guarantee of $1.88 billion, providing it breaks ground by the end of September.

Laura Abram, spokeswoman for Arizona-based First Solar, said site preparation likely will begin next week, with workers bringing in equipment and setting up temporary trailers. The date for an official groundbreaking has yet to be set, she said.

In addition to construction jobs, Tom Freeman, spokesman for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency, said Desert Sunlight and other solar projects in the region will fuel a job-creating supply chain for materials and services.

Other projects in the 202,000-acre Riverside East solar zone between Joshua Tree National Park and Blythe:

Solar Millennium’s 1,000-megawatt Blythe project, which is under construction.

NextEra Energy’s 250-megawatt Genesis project, which has begun site preparation.

Solar Millennium’s Palen project, which awaits final approval.

All three are solar thermal projects, which produce electricity from heat gathered from solar troughs. The solar panels to be installed for Desert Sunlight generate electricity directly from sunlight.