Submitted by New Energy News Blog

Giant solar power plants were for nearly two decades just something some crazy California types built in the desert, a visonary undertaking rendered eccentric by crashing natural gas prices. Lately, though, natural gas is getting expensive and announcements of new solar power plant projects are becoming more common than allegations of illicit sex among politicians. Utility-sized solar power is suddenly the new new thing.

FPL Energy bought the Mojave Desert SEGS solar power plants those crazy California types built with rows and rows of parabolic mirror back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Seeing the time is right, FPL is taking all the expertise they gained from operating those plants and moving to dominate the solar power market. They’ve got plans and are acquiring land throughout the southwest for 1,100 megawatts of capacity.

California utilities are hurrying to catch up with FPL. There are whispers to expect a big announcement soon from Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric about a Stirling Energy Systems breakthrough development in the deserts near San Diego.

Allco Renewable Energy Group is not satisfied with plans for a huge solar power plant in Rhode Island, the biggest solar power plant east of the Mississippi River. It is reportedly evaluating the possibility of installing wind turbines at the location as well.

There is one potential wrench in Allco Renewable’s ambitious works: It requires National Grid, the Rhode Island and New England utility power, to approve a 20-year fixed-rate contract to secure its investment. And National Grid does not like to make such contracts.

It’s practically melodrama: Will Rhode Island get in on the new new thing?

If any reader is thinking solar energy in Rhode Island sounds odd, think again. Germany leads the world in solar energy development and it has the solar capacity of Anchorage, Alaska.

Allco Renewable wants to build the biggest solar power plant east of the Mississippi – in Rhode Island. (click to enlarge)

FPL Energy Advances Solar Strategy; Plans to Build New Solar Electric Generating Facility in California
March 26, 2008 (Business Wire)
Developer plans $5 million solar energy farm in Rhode Island
March 25, 2008 (AP via Boston Globe)
Developer plans $45 million energy farm
March 25, 2008 (NBC Providence/New Bedford)

FPL Energy, LLC (Mitch Davidson, president), fully owned subsidiary of FPL Group; California Energy Commission (CEC)Allco Renewable Energy Group; National Grid

The new FPL Energy plant will use parabolic mirrors to heat water and use the steam produced to drive a turbine. By storing the steam, the solar plant can have the capacity to generate power when there is no sun. (click to enlarge)

FPL Energy filed an Application for Certification with CEC to construct, own and operate the 250-megawatt Beacon Solar Energy Project solar power plant.
Allco Renewable is set on building largest solar energy farm east of the Mississippi River on a former hazardous waste site in Rhode Island.

– FPL Group first announced its intention to expand its solar energy capacity by at least 600 megawatts by 2015 at the September 2007 Clinton Global Initiative gathering.
– Construction will begin in 2009 and should begin generating electricity 2 years later.
– On March 25, Allco Renewable signed a letter of intent to build the solar power project.
– The proposed project will be on a tract of land declared a federal Superfund cleanup site in the 1980s.

FPL Energy knows plenty about solar power plant operation. (click to enlarge)

– The Beacon Solar Energy Project will be located on a 2,000 acre eastern Kern County site in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.
– FPL Energy has 700 megawatts of wind energy capacity in California.
– The proposed Allco Renewable site is in Coventry.
– Allco Renewables is based in New York.

– FPL Energy is the biggest generator of wind energy (5,000+ megawatts, 56 facilities, 16 states) and solar energy (310 megawatts) in the U.S.
– The Beacon Solar Energy Project will use 500,000 parabolic mirrors and a similar technology to that which FPL Energy has operated at the SEGS Mojave Desert solar power plants. The mirrors concentrate the sun’s power to heat a liquid that flows to boil water into steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity for the grid.
– FPL Energy has identified 1,100 megawatts of new solar sites andhas begun acquiring land.
– The project is expected to cost $45 million.
– The 100-acre tract of Coventry-owned land required hazardous waste cleanup because it was once home to a pig farm.
– Coventry will give Allco a 50-year lease. Allco will make $200,000/year payments or pay 4% of gross receipts/year, to Coventry, whichever is greater.

Rumor has it Stirling Energy Systems will soon announce huge installations in California’s deserts in partnership with big utilities. (click to enlarge)

– Mitch Davidson, president, FPL Energy: “FPL Energy is a leader in producing energy from clean and renewable sources…At a time of rising and volatile fossil-fuel costs and increasing concerns about greenhouse gases, solar electricity can have a meaningful impact in reducing carbon dioxide emissions that scientists believe contribute to global warming. We believe that solar power has similar long-term potential as wind energy, and we are well positioned to play a leading role in the growth of this renewable technology.”
– The AP/Boston Globe’s inadequate report: “The project calls for hundreds of 3-foot-by-5-foot solar panels that would rotate from east to west throughout the day.”
– The inadequate NBC report: “A National Grid spokesman told NBC 10 that the company does not like to enter into 20-year fixed-rate contracts.”

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