Brightsource Energy Inc. on Thursday cleared its final permitting hurdle for its proposed solar power plant. It expects to begin construction in the California desert in the next few weeks.
The federal Bureau of Land Management approved the Oakland company's Ivanpah Electric Generating System project, set for remote San Bernardino County near the Nevada border.
With a $1.37-billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, the project could be one of the first local commercial solar plants to break ground in years. The 370-megawatt installation will involve 173,500 mirrors that focus solar energy on central "power towers" to create steam inside, driving electricity-producing turbines.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison have already signed up to split the power, enough to light up nearly 278,000 homes, the Bureau of Land Management said.
Construction, expected to wrap up by the end of 2013, will employ more than 1,000 local union workers at its peak. Brightsource is also working with environmentalists to take native species and the local ecosystem into consideration while developing the site.
State and federal regulatory agencies have been busy since August, sweeping through several renewable energy proposals. Developers are hoping to break ground by the end of the year to take advantage of stimulus funds.
President Obama touted the push toward renewable power in his weekly address Saturday, highlighting the Ivanpah project.
"With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy," he said.