Ambitious plans to cover two big swaths of California desert with solar dishes could finally help the energy-producing technology make the leap to industrial-scale development.
Stirling Energy Systems Inc., of Phoenix, hopes to construct 20,000 solar dishes covering four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville, Calif., each dish pointing skyward to collect the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that would flow 80 miles south to power-hungry Los Angeles. The solar encampment, if eventually built, could produce 500 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the daytime needs of 300,000 homes, doubling the state’s solar capacity. The project cleared a hurdle last month when state regulators approved a 20-year power-purchase agreement between Stirling and Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International.
A second project, involving Stirling and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., a unit of Sempra Energy, awaits approval. It calls for the purchase of 300 megawatts of solar power from a Stirling project in the Imperial Valley, east of San Diego, with an option to expand to as much as 900 megawatts — the equivalent of two big gas-fired power plants.