World’s biggest solar project gets federal go-ahead

The Obama administration signed off on a plan Monday to build a solar power plant that is slated to be the largest in the world by the time it starts up in 2013.

The Interior Department’s permit approval gives a green light to the Blythe Solar Power Project, a joint venture by Solar Millennium and Chevron Energy Solutions that will cover 7,025 acres of public lands in Riverside County, Calif., 1,300 miles west of Houston on Interstate 10.

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When constructed, the plant is expected to produce up to 1,000 megawatts of solar power — enough to power 300,000 to 750,000 homes.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the permit approval a milestone that “sends a tremendous signal that the United States is serious about making renewable energy an integral part of our energy portfolio.”

This is the latest in a slew of government approvals for solar installations on public lands in recent weeks. Using a new fast-track process, the Interior Department sped up its approval of renewable energy projects.

Including the Blythe solar installation, the six solar projects approved by the Interior Department have the potential to generate up to 2,800 megawatts of power, said Bob Abbey, the director of the Bureau of Land Management.