World's Largest Solar Thermal Plant to be Built in California

This is a great step forward in the adoption of solar power in the US. However, it's somehow bittersweet for US renewable energy leadership because a German company is building the 1,000-megawatt plant. Solar Millennium LLC is the US subsidiary of Germany's Solar Millennium AG.

Solar Millennium has not disclosed where the equipment will be manufactured. The good news is that California will get hundreds of temporary construction green jobs, and a few hundred permanent operations green jobs.

The second largest solar plant in the world (392 MW) is also on US soil, and built by Brightsource, a US company.

Here's the full text of the press release:

Erlangen, Oakland, Washington, 26 October 2010 US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar authorized on Monday the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Blythe solar power plant site. This was the last approval to be issued, thus successfully concluding the entire approval process for the world's largest solar power plant facility. A total of four solar-thermal power plants are to be built at the Blythe location in California with an overall capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Based on this decision, the US Bureau of Land Management has granted Solar Millennium LLC, the American project development unit within the Solar Millennium Group, the right of way for public land at the Blythe location. It is the first approval by the US Department of the Interior for a parabolic trough power plant on US public land.

"The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation's renewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future," Secretary Ken Salazar said in signing the ROD. "This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home."

Oliver Blamberger, CFO of Solar Millennium AG: "The successful conclusion of the approval process for the world's largest solar location is, at the same time, a major milestone for the further growth of Solar Millennium. This paves the way for the start of construction of the first two 242-MW plants before the end of the year." With regard to the financial close in the next fiscal year for the first two power plants, Blamberger adds: "This is also good news for our advanced talks with the US Department of Energy on the loan guarantees for which we have applied. A successful conclusion of this process would secure more than two thirds of the financing volume of the first two planned power plants through the American Federal Financing Bank (FFB)."

For the financing structure of the Blythe 1 and 2 power plants, Solar Millennium envisions an equity ratio of 20 to 30 percent and a debt ratio of 70 to 80 percent. In terms of equity, the Company has been in negotiations with various investors. The Company has enough resources for financing the first construction measures.

With a potential power plant capacity of around 1,000 MW, the Blythe plant is entering nuclear power plant dimensions. The four power plants together will produce enough electricity for more than 300,000 American single family homes, thereby saving one million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The power purchase agreements between Solar Millennium LLC and the American utility Southern California Edison (SCE) for the two major 242-MW solar power plants, which are to be realized now, were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in July. The agreements regulate SCE's purchase of the electricity produced by the power plants.

Solar Millennium LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Solar Trust of America LLC, the American joint venture between Solar Millennium (70 percent) and Ferrostaal (30 percent). Uwe T. Schmidt, CEO of Solar Trust of America, explains the significance of the solar power plants for the region's environment and economy: "This is an historical day, not only for our Company, but also for California and particularly the Blythe region. In addition to their contribution to meeting California's climate goals, the power plants planned there will also play a very significant role in reviving the local economy." Solar Millennium believes that 1,000 jobs will be created during the construction period of Blythe. When the 1,000 MW facility is fully operational it will create more than 220 permanent jobs.

Josef Eichhammer, President of Solar Trust of America and CEO of Solar Millennium LLC, adds: "Thanks to the outstanding coordination and cooperation between the US government authorities and those of the state of California, the approval process for the Blythe site was concluded within a year, which is much faster than usually for projects like these. The approval of the 1,000 MW in Blythe shows the determination of the US government to give higher priority to solar power plants in the future energy mix. We see this decision as very important, as it will enable us to realize the power purchase agreements signed with Southern California Edison. We expect to be connected to the grid with the first 242-MW block as early as 2013". Eichhammer continues: "We're also close to concluding the approval process for additional sites in California and Nevada. In this regard, we expect another 500 MW in solar power plant capacity to be approved in the next few months, meaning that we have fulfilled the main preconditions for our growth in the US."

About Solar Millennium AG:
Solar Millennium AG, Erlangen, is an international company in the renewable energy sector, with its main focus on solar-thermal power plants. Together with its subsidiaries and associates, the Company specializes in parabolic trough power plants and has managed to take a globally leading position in this field. Solar Millennium strives to further extend its expertise in the area of solar-thermal power plants with the aim of achieving and securing sustainable technology leadership. As such, the Company covers all important business sectors along the value chain for solar-thermal power plants: from project development and financing to the technology and the turnkey construction and operation of power plants. In Spain, Solar Millennium developed Europe's first parabolic trough power plants and realized these together with partners. Additional projects are planned around the world with an overall capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts: here the current regional focus is on Spain, the US, India, China, the Middle East and North Africa.

About Solar Trust of America and Solar Millennium LLC:
Solar Trust of America (STA) is a joint venture of the Solar Millennium Group (70%) and the Ferrostaal Group (30%) and covers important business fields in the value chain for solar thermal power plants in the region of North America. This includes the business segments of project development and financing, engineering, turn-key construction and operation of power plants. Solar Millennium LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Solar Trust of America.

About solar-thermal power plant technology:
Solar-thermal power plants generate electricity by converting solar radiation into heat energy. In a parabolic trough power plant, trough-shaped mirrors concentrate the incidental radiation onto a pipe in the focal line of the collector. Its absorption heats a fluid heat medium in the pipe, generating steam in the power block through a heat exchanger. As in conventional power plants, the steam powers a turbine to generate electricity. By integrating thermal storage, electricity can be supplied on demand, even after sunset.

For further information:
Solar Millennium AG
Dipl.-Ing. Sven Moormann (Corporate Communications)
Dr. Stefan Eckhoff (Investor Relations)
Tel.: +49 (0)9131 9409-0
Email: presse@SolarMillennium.de / investor@SolarMillennium.de