Solar Millennium Switches to Dry-Cooling

November 12, 2009 -

Finally acknowledging that Amargosa Valley is a desert and that groundwater is an extremely rare resource, Solar Millennium is changing the plan to cool its proposed concentrated solar thermal power plant from wet-cooled to dry-cooled, according to Gregory Helseth, Renewable Energy Coordinator for the Las Vegas Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management.

The parabolic trough plant would produce electricity by sunlight heating a synthetic oil that then transfers the heat to steam boilers that turn turbines. The hot oil transfers its thermal energy to water, making superheated steam. The water involved in the steam cycle then needs to be cooled so it can safely return to the system.

In a wet-cooled system the steam is condensed after it leaves the turbine in evaporative cooling towers. On cool days you can actually see the water vapor lost into the air from these cooling towers, which act just like those on a nuclear power plant or coal plant. A lot of water is lost from the system in this way, and must be replaced by a continuous source of new water -- in the case of the original Solar Millennium proposal this would have been up to 3,000 acre-feet per year, from pumping groundwater.

The company apparently was unable to purchase or lease pre-existing farm water in this over-drawn basin.

The dry-cooling process is much less efficient, and produces less electricity, because the cooling process requires larger towers equipped with huge fans to pass air over the hot water. In the hot summer days of the Mojave Desert this takes a long time. The towers are closed and the water recycled, not evaporated.

Across the border, the California Energy Commission has already recommended that all applicants use dry-cooling for any proposed solar thermal project in the deserts, because, yes, it is a desert.

A complication may be that the military has usually opposed such tall cooling towers within 25 miles of Nellis Air Range in south-central Nevada, as interfering with radar and flight maneuvers. The Solar Millennium Amargosa Farm Road site is within the 25-mile zone.

Press release sent to us from Solar Millennium:

November 16, 2009

Wholly Owned Subsidiary's Commitment To Dry-Cooling Will Conserve Limited Natural Resources And Ensure Carbon-Free Energy Source

Berkeley, California, November 16, 2009. Solar Millennium, LLC, a large-scale solar thermal parabolic trough power plant developer, today announced that it will utilize advanced dry-cooling technology for its two proposed solar thermal power plants being developed by the company in the Amargosa Valley outside Las Vegas. Solar Millennium, LLC, is the U.S. project development arm of Solar Trust of America, LLC, an integrated industrial solar solutions company operating in the southwestern United States.

The company currently has a Memorandum of Understanding with NV Energy for development and construction of one or two, 242MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plants to be located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The decision to employ dry-cooling technology follows extensive due diligence that took into account unique environmental and ecological considerations including wetlands and wildlife habitats, water conservation and land usage, and state and federal government renewable energy initiatives and policies. Following a series of local public hearings and ongoing discussions with regulatory authorities and environmental groups, it was determined that dry-cooling was in the best interests of the Amargosa Valley community and its economic development plans.

According to Solar Trust of America Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Uwe T. Schmidt, dry-cooling technology requires significantly less water usage that conventional wet-cooling systems with no carbon emissions. "Our dry-cooled solar thermal power plants will use 90 percent less water than originally projected, thus conserving and protecting our limited natural resources while ensuring a carbon-free energy source for generations to come,"said Schmidt. "Combined with our financing, development and construction expertise in building utility-size power plants around the world, we will create much-needed job opportunities and contribute to the solar power industry's growth potential in the Amargosa Valley."

Josef Eichhammer, President of Solar Trust of America, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of Solar Millennium LLC, noted the extensive dialogue that has gone into the development of the Amargosa Valley project. "Solar Millennium has been an active and responsible corporate citizen in Nevada for many years and has worked closely with all stakeholders to address their concerns and arrive at a solution that works for all parties. We trust that this decision to employ dry-cooling will accelerate the approval process and enable us to begin construction and stimulate the local economy by December 2010."

"Solar Millennium's decision to use dry-cooling will enable Nevada to maximize the growth of the solar industry and accelerate the use of our enormous solar resource," said Nevada State Senator Mike Schneider (D-Las Vegas), Chairman of the Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. "This will create new jobs, clean energy and a new industry while saving water, our most precious resource. It will also go a long way in diversifying our economy at a time when our state needs it most," he said.

Nevada State Senator Randolph Townsend (R-Reno), a longtime advocate for renewable energy, said "Solar Millennium has made the right choice for Nevada utilizing dry-cooling technology. Through their leadership they are being socially responsible along with their shareholders, rate payers and environmentalists. During this time of economic downturn, Solar Millennium will help put Nevada on the map as the renewable energy capital of our nation."

The proposed power plants, valued at more than $1.5 billion each, are expected to directly employ at each plant up to 800 skilled workers during the initial construction phase and create approximately 100 permanent jobs for operations, maintenance and management employees. They are also expected to indirectly create thousands of additional jobs as Solar Trust of America procures materials, goods and services locally for each facility.

Together with its wholly owned U.S. project development subsidiary, Berkeley-based Solar Millennium, LLC, and global business partners Solar Millennium AG and MAN Ferrostaal AG, Solar Trust of America is actively pursuing the construction and development of multiple solar thermal power plants across the southwestern U.S. In addition to the Amargosa Valley project, the company currently has solar thermal energy power plants in advanced stages of development in Ridgecrest, Blythe and Palen, California. Last week those projects were placed on the Department of Interior's 'fast track' list to expedite the permitting process and meet eligibility requirements for economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
About Solar Trust of America

Solar Trust of America, LLC, is an integrated industrial solar solutions company that is reshaping the energy landscape in the United States using in-house, commercially viable and proven parabolic trough solar thermal energy technology. The newly formed company is one of the first solar industry consolidators and integrators that provide a complete concentrated solar power (CSP) solution for the design, financing, construction, operation and management of utility-size solar thermal power plants. For more information about the company visit www.SolarTrustofAmerica.com.

Press and Local Contact for Solar Millennium, LLC: Rachel McMahon, Director of Government Affairs, Solar Millennium, LLC. 510.809.4655, mcmahon@SolarMillennium.com.

Rachel McMahon
Director, Government Affairs - Project Development
Solar Millennium, LLC
v: 510-809-4655
m: 510-501-0052
f: 510-524-5516
1625 Shattuck Ave., Suite 270
Berkeley, CA 94709-1161

County Wants to Help Solar Millennium Get Around Amargosa Valley Area Plan

November 6, 2009 -

Solar Millennium officials said the Amargosa Valley area plan that would guide future land use decisions over the next 20 years would interfere with the siting of their solar power plant, but Nye County commissioners said they would negotiate a development agreement with the company, superseding the area plan approved Tuesday. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would have to consider the plan when making decisions.

"This is not law, this is a plan. You are free to make decisions that are different from this plan," Amargosa Valley Town Board Chairman Jan Cameron told commissioners. "The plan is a concept as to how our community as a whole feels they would like to go forward."

The plan intends to limit parceling to a minimum of two gross acres except in specified higher density areas on the perimeter of town, to conserve the underground water supply. Water-intensive, hazardous waste-producing types of development would be specifically discouraged.

When commissioner Joni Eastley asked if the plan was enforceable, Dave Hall, chairman of the Amargosa Valley Planning Committee said, "Not really. What we would encourage people to do in the community is to continue to meet, continue to develop a plan so it best fits the character for Amargosa Valley so it changes. We wanted to at least develop a starting plan. We didn't want to have an empty desert."

Jason Higgins, project development manager for Solar Millennium, said he had problems with areas designated residential overlapping the area his firm wants to use for the solar project and roads planned throughout their area.

Carlos Pineda, Solar Millennium senior director for Nevada projects, said, "What we're talking about is channeling millions of dollars through the stimulus plan." But the company is hustling to get the permits from the BLM to break ground by the end of 2010, the deadline to access stimulus money.

Pineda said the quarter-mile setback designated in the plan between any residential areas and the "special development area" for solar energy projects, together with the areas designated rural residential, had the potential to squeeze the area on which to put the solar power plants.

Pineda said their legal counsel, the firm of Lionel, Sawyer and Collins, raised some issues. Eastley wouldn't accept the document, in keeping with a county commission policy only to accept documents submitted in advance, not at the meeting itself.

"When the public hearings were conducted on the area plan what were your comments then? Why wait until the last minute to submit some legal protests?" Eastley asked. "You had a lot of opportunities to be heard on the record in the process and during the Amargosa Valley planning committee meetings."

Commissioner Butch Borasky said he would make the motion to approve the plan, providing it's only a guide or tool, not set in stone. It passed 4-0.

Story in the Pahrump Valley Times >>here.


Citigroup and Deutsche Bank Back Solar Millennium Projects

October 22, 2009 - See our story in RENEWABLE NEWS >>here.