Defense contractor Lockheed Martin is building its first large-scale solar power plant -- a $1.5 billion, 290-megawatt solar thermal plant about 75 miles west of Phoenix.
Under the deal announced Friday, Lockheed will build and operate the plant for developer Starwood Energy Group, which has a contract to sell the power to utility Arizona Public Service Co. when it is complete in 2013.
It's the first project under a Lockheed/Starwood partnership first announced in 2007, aimed at marrying Starwood's deep pockets and project expertise and Lockheed's experience in space-based photovoltaic applications to bring utility-scale solar power projects to Earth.
BrightSource uses a "power tower" design -- a field of mirrors, or heliostats, to concentrate the sunlight and heat the water atop of a central tower to make steam to power a turbine. Its first plant, a 110-megawatt solar thermal station in Ivanpah, Calif., is set to begin construction in 2010 and begin operation in 2012.
Lockheed, on the other hand, will use a parabolic trough design, using 3,000 100-meter reflective troughs to focus sunlight on fluid-containing tubes that carry the heated fluid to a heat exchanger to generate steam (see Solar Thermal: Which Technology Is Best?).
California's investor-owned utilities like PG&E and Edison are under a state mandate to include 20 percent of its power mix with renewable electricity. Arizona Public Service also has a mandate to provide 4.5 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2014.