Interior Department Approves First Solar Projects Which Won’t Work On Public Lands

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It may seem to be an extremely modest start, but the Interior Department has approved two large-scale solar projects which will be the first ever build on public land.

The Imperial Valley Solar Project, proposed by Tessera Solar of Texas, will use Stirling Energy System’s SunCatcher technology on 6,360 acres  in Imperial County, California. The Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions of California, will employ photovoltaic solar technology on 422 acres in San Bernardino County, California.

The two projects will cost about $300 million and will create 1,000 jobs during their construction. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar argued that the facilities, which could provide enough energy to power 500,000 homes, were the early wave of initiatives by the Administration to provide renewable energy sources.

The projects really are not much of a start at all.  Green energy generation does not help cut reliance on fossil fuels when there is a limited and aged energy grid. Most experts believe a substantial upgrade of the national grid is ten years off. The stimulus money, which is part of the programs to develop new energy sources, has been slow to reach the market.

As research firm Decision Analyst recently pointed out, “Current conversion efficiency is only about 16% with cadmium-telluride (CdTe) thin film, far short of necessary efficiencies for large-scale utilization.” In other words, solar energy is not an efficient replacement for coal and nuclear power.

The federal government has focused on the wrong targets to get solar power to become a mainstream source of electricity. Money needs to be put rebuilding the American energy grid so that electricity derived from solar power can be efficiently transported.

Douglas A. McIntyre