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Hundreds of jobs linked to solar projects

Palm Springs Desert Sun - August 22, 2010

Tentative approvals for two massive solar projects planned for public land east of the Coachella Valley could create hundreds of construction jobs in the next few years and serve as a springboard for long-term development, drawing green technology companies and manufacturers to the region.

That was the two-pronged message coming out of Thursday's meeting of the Renewable Energy Roundtable at UC Riverside's Palm Desert campus, where valley civic and business officials heard an update on four solar projects slated for development on federal land between Joshua Tree National Park and Blythe.

For Mayor Yvonne Parks of Desert Hot Springs, the projects mean one thing: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."

"That's what we're all striving for, local workers, local vendors," Parks said. "We've got construction workers who can do anything."

The Solar Millennium Blythe project, a 1,000-megawatt solar thermal plant, could be first past the post, earning a preliminary recommendation for approval from the California Energy Commission on Aug. 11.

A final vote is set for a commission meeting on Sept. 15 in Sacramento and, pending other construction approvals, the project could break ground by Nov. 1, said Bill Owens, director of project development for Solar Millennium.

"In any case, we'll do some construction by the end of the year," Owens told the roundtable on Thursday. "We'll be out there about 39 to 60 months" for construction.

Next up after the Blythe plant could be NextEra Energy's Genesis project, a 250-megawatt solar thermal installation, which got its preliminary approval from the commission on Thursday.

The commission's final vote is scheduled for Sept. 29, also in Sacramento.

Owens estimated the Blythe project, which will be built in stages, will employ about 600 workers a year during construction and then provide 200 long-term jobs for operation.

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