For the second time in seven weeks, the California Energy Commission has voted to accept an application for a massive megawatt solar power plant. The commission on Wednesday certified as “data adequate” Silicon Valley startup Ausra’s application to build a 177-megawatt solar on the state’s central coast. That means Ausra’s Carrizo Energy Solar Farm has cleared a significant regulatory hurdle and the commission will begin a year-long review process. If all goes well, construction will begin in 2009 and the plant will start producing electricity in 2010. (To get an idea of the complexity of the California licensing process and why the acceptance of an application is a big deal, you just need to scan Aura’s 1,000-page application package.
The Ausra move follows the commission’s Oct. 31 vote to greenlight for review BrightSource Energy’s planned 400-megawatt power station complex to be built in the Mojave Desert on the Nevada border.
Ausra, backed by A-list venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with utility giant PG&E (PCG) for the greenhouse gas-free electricity generated by the Carrizo plant in eastern San Luis Obispo County. BrightSource (backed by Morgan Stanley (MS) and VantagePoint Venture Partners), meanwhile, continues to negotiate with the utility for a 500-megawatt power purchase deal.