SACRAMENTO - Two separate California Energy Commission siting committees have released Presiding Member's Proposed Decisions (PMPD) on amendments to solar projects in Riverside County.
The committee for the proposed Blythe Solar Power Project recommends approval of the amendment to convert to a 485-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility, while the committee for the proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System recommends denying the amendment to convert to a 500-megawatt solar thermal power tower project.
In the PMPD for the Blythe Solar Power Project released Friday, December 13, 2013, the committee finds that the project, as mitigated, may have environmental impacts that are cumulatively significant when considered along with the impacts of other projects in the region. The cumulative impacts that cannot be mitigated to less than significant levels are impacts to biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources. The committee finds that the project benefits-including its contribution to meeting California's Renewables Portfolio Standard, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating an estimated 499 peak construction jobs, and boosting the economy-justify an override of those impacts.
Commissioner Karen Douglas presided while Commissioner David Hochschild served as associate member for the Blythe Solar Power Project committee. The committee determined that the Blythe amendment complies with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards.
About the Palen project, the committee found the requested amendment, like the currently approved solar trough project, will have significant unmitigable impacts to cultural and visual resources. Unlike the currently approved project, the committee finds that the amended project will also result in significant and unmitigable impacts to biological resources due to the risk of solar flux on avian species. The committee recommends denying the project amendment at this time, finding that the totality of the project impacts outweighs the totality of the project benefits.
The committee assigned to the Palen project has scheduled a committee conference on January 7, 2014 in Sacramento, California.
The PMPDs for the projects are based solely on the record of facts established during the facilities' amendment proceedings. They are not final decisions on these amendments. The Committees have released both recommended decisions for 30 days of public comment and will consider input before the proposed decisions go to the full Energy Commission in early 2014.
Commissioner Karen Douglas presided while Commissioner David Hochschild served as associate member for the Palen Solar Electric Generating System amendment.
In September 2010, the Energy Commission approved the 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power Project, a solar thermal power project using parabolic trough technology. The site is located about eight miles west of Blythe in eastern Riverside County. It was originally to be built on 7,043 acres of federal public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The project owner, Palo Verde Solar I, LLC, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, filed an amendment with the commission in June 2012 to change the technology to solar photovoltaic. The commission has no jurisdiction over wind or PV projects but commission review was allowed by the Legislature under Senate Bill 226 for a limited category of projects approved on BLM land in 2010.
In April 2013, the new project owner, NextEra Blythe Solar Energy Center, LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, filed a revised amendment to reduce the project's physical size and generation capacity. The amended 485-MW project would be developed on 4,070 acres of BLM land in four phases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourth generating 110 MW. The project will also require a revised right-of-way grant from the BLM.
Construction on the project is expected to last 48 months. There would be an average of 341 employees during construction, with a peak of 499. Fifteen operational employees would be needed. The estimated capital construction cost is $1.13 billion, according to the project owner. The Blythe PMPD can be found at https://efiling.energy.ca.gov/Lists/DocketLog.aspx?docketnumber=09-AFC-06C
In December 2010, the Energy Commission approved the 500-megawatt Palen Solar Power Project, a solar thermal power project using parabolic trough technology. In December 2012, the new project owner, Palen Solar Holdings, LLC filed an amendment with the commission requesting to change the technology to solar power tower.
The applicant for the amended project now known as the Palen Solar Electric Generating System is Palen Solar Holdings, LLC, a joint venture of BrightSource Energy, Inc. and Abengoa.
The amendment proposal consists of two 250-MW solar towers and 170,000 heliostats. Heliostats are elevated mirrors used to focus the sun's rays on a solar receiver that produces steam to generate electricity. The solar receiver would be located atop a 750-foot-tall power tower near the center of each solar field.
The Palen project would be located about 10 miles east of Desert Center, halfway between Indio and Blythe, in eastern Riverside County. It is located on 3,794 acres of public land managed by the BLM which is separately reviewing the project. The Palen PMPD can be found at http://docketpublic.energy.ca.gov/PublicDocuments/09-AFC-07C/TN201434_20131213T150623_Presiding_Member's_Proposed_Decision.pdf