Back in October 2010, just a few days before his successor was to be anointed in a statewide election, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar trekked deep into the Mojave Desert to speechify at the groundbreaking for what will soon be America’s largest solar power plant.
This is the Ivanpah Solar Generating Electric System, a 4,000-acre project not far off the Interstate 15 freeway between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area. Due to open later this year or sometime in 2014, the privately-financed (except for a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee) Ivanpah will produce 392 megawatts of power for customers of Southern California Edison Co. and Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
A short time after it opens, another massive solar thermal project, the $1.6 billion Mojave Solar Project (with a $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee) should begin producing 250 megawatts of power from its only slightly smaller array of panels, the juice going to PG&E over new power lines.
Together, the two projects will produce about one-third of what the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station once put out, and what PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant generates now. That’s enough power for about half a million homes, a good-sized city...