Solar Trust breaks ground on world's biggest solar power plant

Secretary Salazar, Governor Brown break ground on Blythe, Calif. solar plantToday (June 17) marked the ground-breaking of the world’s largest solar power plant in the world, Solar Trust of America’s 1,000 megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project in California. Among the groundbreakers were Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

Solar Trust is building the project on more than 7,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The project will use parabolic troughs to focus solar thermal energy on liquid-filled pipes. The heated liquid will power steam turbines that will generate electricity.

“What we're doing here today really is remarkable. This is the first time that a solar power plant will be built at the size, scale and scope of the largest coal, gas or nuclear power plants producing energy today,” said Solar Trust of America CEO Uwe Schmidt during the ground breaking ceremony. “And with this, Solar Trust of America is moving solar from the rooftops of the United States in terms of PV production to the mainstream of energy production.”

The project will create 1,000 direct jobs during construction phases and 200 permanent positions, according to Schmidt. It will also create 7,500 indirect jobs throughout the country, he said.

Gov. Brown, no stranger to solar projects—he commissioned California’s first large-scale solar project in the early 1980s during his first round as governor—spoke about the importance of the project.

“This is really a very important day to be in California where the world's largest solar project is commencing. This is really big,” he said. “We can both exercise fiscal discipline and also give full vent to our imagination and make commitments to investments that create California jobs and deal with our energy needs and at the same time respects our environment.”

Brown also spoke about what such projects will mean for California’s future.

“We're going to be the world leader in solar energy and all the jobs that that can create, so this is a very good day,” he said. “Today we're looking out at the possibility of unimagined wealth that can be produced with cooperation, risk-taking government assistance and hard old-fashioned work of manufacturing transportation and all the other stuff that goes into making things happen.”

Salazar had visited the site Brown commissioned in the 1980s.

“They function yet today,” he said. “And yet for the last several decades, what happened is America went to sleep in the 1980s and beyond. Well, America is reawakening to the reality that we can power the energy security of America forward, and today's example here with the largest solar facility in the United States of America is one of those milestones we can all celebrate.”

Salazar cited the work the California and BLM had done to coordinate efforts as paramount to getting these types of projects up and running.

“The template we have here in California where we are working so close with the state to stand up this kind of renewable energy reality is the exact kind of template that ought to be springing up around the United States,” he said.

“This groundbreaking today needs to be viewed in the context of the energy blueprint for the United States of America, which president Obama has been working at,” Salazar said. “We believe we can secure the energy future of the United States of America by doing the right things with domestic development of oil and gas both onshore and offshore in the right places and in the right way. But we also believe that the energy future of the United States is based on alternative energy, and there is no better example than what we are doing here in California.”