Workshop to be held Dec. 5 for Hidden Hills and Rio Mesa solar facilities

November 28, 2012

Sacramento – The California Energy Commission staff will conduct a workshop for the proposed Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System and Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility.

When: Wednesday, December 5, 2012, beginning at 9 a.m.

Where: California Energy Commission, Hearing Room B, 1516 Ninth Street, Sacramento, California.

Arrangements have been made for people unable to attend the workshop to participate by telephone and/or by computer.

Why: The workshop is being held to allow staff, the applicant, interested agencies, and the public to discuss biological resources, specifically the applicant’s response to data requests issued October 26 about the potential impacts of solar power convective heat and radiant flux. The workshop is being conducted jointly because the projects share the same technology, applicant, and potential impacts to birds and bats.

What: BrightSource Energy, Inc. is the applicant for the Hidden Hills and Rio Mesa projects, which are each 500-megawatts (MW). Both consist of two 250-MW solar plants. Each plant would have about 85,000 heliostats – elevated mirrors used to focus the sun’s rays on a solar receiver – that produces steam to generate electricity. The solar receiver would be the top section of a 750-foot tall power tower near the center of each solar field.

The proposed Hidden Hills project would be located on 3,097 acres of private land leased in Inyo County next to the Nevada border. The project site is about eight miles south of Pahrump, Nevada and about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The transmission line and the natural gas pipeline would be located in Nevada on public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The capital cost for the Hidden Hills project is estimated to be $2.2 billion. If the project is approved, construction would take about 29 months with work scheduled to start the second quarter of 2013 and end the fourth quarter of 2015. The two solar plants would be constructed concurrently, with a planned three-month delay between their commercial operation dates. The project would require an average of 1,087 workers during construction, with a peak of 2,293 in the 19th month. Once the project is operational, 100 workers would be needed, according to the applicant.

The proposed Rio Mesa project would be located on the Palo Verde Mesa in Riverside County, about 13 miles southwest of Blythe. The proposed 3,805-acre site would be located on land leased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. This site would include the two proposed power plants, heliostat fields, and support facilities. Additional land area required for the project gen-tie line, emergency and construction electrical power supply line, and primary access road would be located on federal land administered by the BLM.

The project was submitted to the Commission in October 2011 as a 750-MW project. The site was proposed on approximately 5,750 acres located partially on leased land and partially on public land administered by the BLM.

In July 2012, BrightSource filed an amended application for certification that removed the northernmost 250-MW power plant that would have been on BLM land. The company made the change in response to issues raised during the early review process including cultural resources, biological resources, and transmission corridor conflict concerns from BLM.

The estimated capital construction cost for the 500-MW Rio Mesa project is about $2 billion. If the project is approved, construction of the facility, from site preparation and grading to commercial operation, would take about 30 months. Construction would be staggered with the first solar plant scheduled to start the fourth quarter of 2013, while the second plant would begin the first quarter of 2014. The project would average 840 workers a month during construction, with a maximum of 2,188 at the peak. Up to 100 full-time employees would be needed when the project is operating, according to the applicant.