Unfortunately, I know Blythe, California too well. This natural blast furnace is in a God forsaken corner of the state where I hunted jack rabbits as a kid, the Indians survived on Gila monsters for protein, and it regularly reaches 130 degrees in the shade. It is also where Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper crossed the “bridge of no return” over the Colorado River in the cult flick Easy Rider. Blythe has unsurprisingly become ground zero for the global thermal solar movement, which I have been chronicling with great interest in these pages (click here for “The Solar Boom in California”).
The entire industry has just taken a quantum leap forward with the approval of a massive 2.8 megawatt plant to be built by Solar Trust of America, a joint venture between two European companies. It dwarfs the 392 MW plant to be built by BrightSource Energy which only received its own go ahead weeks ago. It is all part of a rush to start alternative energy projects before Federal subsidies from Obama’s 2009 stimulus package expire at the end of this year. The Solar Trust project expected to qualify for $900 million in cash grants and additional loan guarantees from the Department of Energy.
The facility will deploy arrayed mirrors over 7,025 acres, or 11 square miles, aimed at a conventional steam turbine. This will generate enough electricity for 2 million homes, about 15% of the total in California. With the Tres Amigas facility in New Mexico coming online soon, this raises the possibility of the Golden State selling excess green, carbon free power to the rest of the West (click here for that piece).
Sorry guys, no equity play here. The new plant will be built and operated by privately held European companies that have been flocking to the US with their advanced technology to cash in on our generous subsidies. But it does make other publicly listed smart grid, transmission, and storage plays out there more interesting. It is all part of a huge, new alternative energy industry that is growing far faster than most investors realize.