So Cal Could Becomes Solar Mecca

California energy officials blessed the fifth and sixth solar power projects in the desert of Southern California, which could make it the sunniest spot in the country for the emerging electricity source.

Eventually, the deserts of Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties could produce enough solar power for more than 3 million homes, according to this recent story in the New York Times.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger embraced the approval of the Genesis and Imperial Valley projects on federal Bureau of Land Management land in Riverside and Imperial counties respectively. If financed and built, they will combine to generate about 2,000 construction and 200 operational jobs.

“Today’s action solidly cements California as the national leader of solar power development,” he said in a statement. "I applaud the California Energy Commission’s decision to approve the construction of these solar projects that will increase our state’s renewable power, create jobs and boost our economy. I look forward to seeing these projects fully built and powering thousands of California homes with clean electricity.”

The two projects bring to six the number of desert-area solar developments approved by the California Energy Commission. Three more await approval before Dec. 31 to qualify for federal stimulus funds.

In addition to the solar thermal projects, there are more than a dozen other large solar photovoltaic and wind projects seeking permits to break ground in California this year, the governor's office said. In contrast to this year, 67 megawatts of utility scale solar were added in 2009 nationwide, and only 34 megwatts in 2008.