SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today celebrated the groundbreaking of BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in Ivanpah, California. The approximately $2 billion project is the first-of-its-kind to be built on federal land, will produce 370 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy and create more than 1,000 jobs.

“Today we are breaking ground on the largest solar project in the world, right here in California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “The construction of this renewable energy plant is great news for our state, and further proof that it is possible to both protect the environment and grow the economy. Projects like this one are helping us meet our long-term energy and environmental goals, while creating jobs and moving us toward a cleaner, more sustainable future – a future where California leads the nation and the world in a clean energy revolution.”

Once completed, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will nearly double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S., according to BrightSource. It will cover about 3,600 acres in San Bernardino County and will produce enough clean energy to power 140,000 homes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking more than 70,000 cars off the road. BrightSource has contracted with Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison to sell the power generated from this project, which is the first of this scale to break ground in 20 years.

The Ivanpah project is one of the projects jointly processed through The Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission (CEC) cooperative model established by a 2009 agreement between Secretary Salazar and Governor Schwarzenegger. The system was among the first commercial solar thermal power plants to be permitted on federal public land in the U.S., and the CEC issued a permit for construction for the project on September 22, 2010.

California has consistently led the nation in renewable energy development. The state currently has over 270 renewable energy projects, totaling approximately 70,000 MW, interested in building and running facilities in the Golden State. The CEC has recently approved six large-scale solar projects totaling nearly 3,000 MW in clean, renewable energy that will likely start construction in California by the end of this year. This includes the 1,000 MW Blythe project which, once built, would replace the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and other projects as the world’s largest. These projects are part of a group of nine solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the CEC for decisions by the end of the year in order to qualify for federal stimulus dollars. If all nine projects are approved, more than 4,300 MW of solar power will be added to our grid, providing more than 8,000 construction jobs and more than 1,000 operational jobs.

Additionally, there are 12 large wind and photovoltaic projects working to break ground in California. On top of being home to the world’s largest solar energy project, California is also home to the world’s largest wind energy project, the Alta Wind Energy Center. According to Terra-Gen Power, the Alta Wind Energy Center will increase wind industry jobs in California by 20 percent, creating more than 1,500 domestic manufacturing, construction and operation and maintenance jobs and contributing more than $600 million to the local economy in Kern County. The Center will also increase the installed wind power capacity in California by 30 percent. Generating 1,550 MW of clean, renewable energy, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 52 million metric tons, the equivalent to taking 446,000 cars off the road and result in $1.2 billion in direct local economic benefits over the life of the project.

Governor Schwarzenegger has a strong and proven commitment to expanding California’s clean energy development that will create jobs, influence national policies and provide a cleaner environment for future generations. In October of 2009, the Governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a historic memorandum of understanding so the state and federal government could work together to ensure timely permitting of renewable energy projects. In March, the Governor signed into law a new program to make it easier to conserve land for endangered species and for developers to build renewable energy projects in California. The program, created by SB X8 34, by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), will help further streamline and expedite the permitting and siting process for large-scale renewable energy projects that will provide jobs and greater energy independence and attract investment.

Other actions to promote clean, renewable energy in California include:

Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS): In 2009, the Governor signed an Executive Order directing the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to adopt regulations increasing the state’s RPS to 33 percent by 2020. The ARB adopted regulations in September that place the highest priority on renewable resources that will provide the greatest environmental benefits that can be developed quickly and support reliable, efficient and cost-effective electricity system operations including resources and facilities located in California and throughout the Western Interconnection.

Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS): In 2007, the Governor established the world’s first LCFS. California’s LCFS requires fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in the state, dramatically expanding the market for alternative fuels. To start, the LCFS will reduce carbon content in all passenger vehicle fuels sold in California by at least 10 percent by 2020 and more thereafter.
Million Solar Roofs Initiative: The Governor’s $2.9 billion incentive plan for home and building owners who install solar electric systems, now known as the California Solar Initiative, will lead to one million solar roofs in California by the year 2018, provide 3,000 megawatts of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tons.

Green Tech Sales Tax Exemption: Governor Schwarzenegger championed and signed SB 71 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) earlier this year exempting all clean technology manufacturing equipment from sales tax, allowing California to maintain a competitive edge by expanding the range of projects. This targeted sales tax exemption does not cost the state tax dollars and increases revenue by expanding the number of clean technology manufacturing companies with sites in California.