Friday, April 17, 2009

Proposed solar power plant criticized by state report

The proposed Beacon Solar Energy Project, a 250-megawatt solar power plant planned for the Kern County desert, has hurdles to overcome before getting the blessing of the staff of the California Energy Commission. A preliminary staff assessment released Wednesday identifies several unresolved issues related to construction and operation.

The plant, as currently proposed, would not comply with certain applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards nor comply with state water policies that pertain to the use of fresh water in industrial applications and power plant cooling systems, the assessment says. The solar plant’s proposed use of potable groundwater for power plant cooling and the project's process and potable water needs would cause a significant adverse impact to potable water resources and could affect current and future users of groundwater, the report says. The preliminary analysis shows that, with the exception of soils and water resources, and its visual impact on the landscape, the solar power plant’s potential impacts could be mitigated to a less than significant level.

The commission’s staff says it is waiting to receive from the applicant new design data related to the engineering of the proposed diversion channel to determine if it impacts to the floodplain and neighboring properties will be avoided or mitigated. The project proposed by Beacon Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light Energy is a concentrated solar electric generating facility proposed on 2,000 plus acres in eastern Kern County. It would use parabolic trough solar thermal technology to produce electrical power from a steam turbine generator, fed from a heat exchanger.

If licensed by the California Energy Commission, the solar thermal facility will begin construction in late 2009 or first quarter of 2010, with commercial operations beginning in approximately the fourth quarter of 2011.

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