BARSTOW - More of the Mojave Desert sun's rays could be harnessed for energy if a solar-powered power plant gets built.

Plans for the facility, to be built on a 54-acre site off Lenwood Road near Barstow, were announced Monday by Solar MW Energy Inc., and Ecosystem Solar Electric Corp. The plant could generate as much as 59.4 megawatts of electricity per day. One megawatt can fulfill the energy needs of as many as 750 homes per day. The plant could be built as soon as 2009 or 2010 said, Nick Panchev, CEO of Ecosystem.

He said the Barstow plant will use natural gas to supplement the plant's hundreds of thousands of solar capturing mirrors on cloudy days. He said that the companies' solar technology differs from competitors because it uses a synthetic oil-like substance in tanks below the mirrored panels to capture and store the sun's energy. The technology allows the plant to generate eight times as much power compared to other facilities, Panchev said.
"Putting the liquid in doubles up the capacity of the solar panels," he said.

Panchev said that his companies proposal is also unique because it hopes to utilize carbon sequestration, returning exhaust from the natural gas generation into the soil.

"Basically, to substantially reduce the emissions we dig a big hole in the ground and pump the gas into the ground so that it becomes coal again," he said.

The Barstow facility is the fourth solar plant the companies are planing for Southern California. Plans were recently announced for plants near Boron, Kramer Junction and in Kern county near Bakersfield.

Panchev said the project is still in the design stages and the companies will need to receive approval from 23 federal, state and local agencies. The environmental impacts of the facility will be researched in the coming months and members of the public will be given the opportunity to comment, he said.

The construction and operation of the plant could create new jobs for Barstow residents, and Panchev estimates that 500 workers are needed for construction and another 50 once it is operational.

"We are not creating `McDonald's'-paying jobs. We are creating $30- to $40-an-hour paying jobs. These are high-tech, highly paid positions, for engineers mostly," he said.
Panchev said that the companies chose Barstow because the anticipated growth of the area will increase demand for electricity.

City spokesman John Rader said that city businesses and residents receive their electricity from the power grid and usually aren't familiar with the power producers but hopes that the facility can supply the area with needed electricity.

Greg Fishman, spokesman for California Independent System Operator, which regulates the state's electrical grid, said interest in solar generation has increased in recent years across the state.

"What is positive about solar, our peak demand in California comes during a hot summer day when people are using their air conditioners. With solar, on hot days more power is generated," he said.

Fishman said that recently enacted state rules mandate that California should receive up to 20 percent of its power from alternatives to fossil fuels by 2010.

"That has definitely spurred a lot of interest in alternative energy," he said

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