Land offsets in California being worked out for Ivanpah solar project

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the California Energy Commission (Energy Commission) and the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) owners have reached a landmark agreement to purchase 7,000 acres of land.

The land would be purchased under the state’s Advanced Mitigation Program (AMP) to satisfy the 377-MW (nominal) solar project’s land mitigation requirements, the Energy Commission said April 18. Ivanpah, which will use heliostats to heat up water to turn a steam turbine, is the first renewable energy project to participate in the AMP since its inception in 2010. The plant is currently in an early commissioning phase.

“Getting meaningful wildlife conservation on the ground while meeting our state and national renewable energy goals is mission-critical for our department and for the people of California,” said CDFW Chief Deputy Director Kevin Hunting. “The Advanced Mitigation Program is an innovative approach to achieving these vital goals and is a shining example of what can be accomplished when government, industry and conservation partners work together.”

The program allows solar developers to coordinate directly with the state agencies to more efficiently purchase high-value conservation lands as mitigation for large-scale renewable energy projects. The mitigation program represents another effort by CDFW and other state agencies to streamline the permitting process in order to achieve Gov. Jerry Brown’s aggressive goal of 33% renewable energy for the state by 2020.

“Working through the State’s Advanced Mitigation Program has proven to be an effective alternative for satisfying the Ivanpah project’s mitigation land requirements,” said Marc Sydnor, director of environmental affairs for BrightSource Energy. “We’ve also been able to achieve a project goal of ensuring that the land purchased is used for the highest possible purpose – to protect our state’s natural legacy.”

“Ivanpah is one of the crown jewels in NRG’s solar portfolio, our single largest solar project and the world’s largest solar thermal plant once completed,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar. “Using innovative thermal technology, the power generated here at Ivanpah will produce enough clean power for more than 140,000 California homes and avoid the emission of 400,000 tons of carbon, helping us in the fight to arrest global climate change.”

The Ivanpah owners, collectively called Solar Partners, paid $6.2m for the lands purchased to mitigate for the Ivanpah solar project that covers nearly 7,000 acres of desert tortoise habitat and 175 acres of state waters. They also paid an additional $5.2m as an endowment to provide for the long-term maintenance and management of the lands. The lands are comprised of 163 separate parcels in the Chuckwalla Desert Wildlife Management Area (DWMA) in San Bernardino County, and the Fremont-Kramer DWMA and Superior-Cronese DWMA both in Riverside County.

The Ivanpah project – owned by NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource – will use BrightSource’s proven solar tower technology. Upon completion, Ivanpah will be the largest solar thermal power tower system in the world. Located in Ivanpah Dry Lake, Calif., the three-unit power system is being built on approximately 3,500 acres of public desert land. The $2.2bn project is creating more than 2,100 jobs for construction workers and support staff and 86 jobs for operations and maintenance employees in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state taxes.

The company said April 5 that “steam blows” have begun at Ivanpah. “Steam blows are a normal start-up process for any conventional steam power plant,” said Mike Bobinecz, Vice President of Construction Management. “This is considered standard industry practice for cleaning steam system circuits.”

Steam blows are part of the “load ascension” program, which includes focusing an increasing number of heliostats onto the boiler and methodically raising the temperature and pressure of the steam produced, the company added. Throughout the plant start-up process, the team monitors and tests the plant’s equipment to ensure it is operating properly and safely. Once the steam blows are complete, the project team will remove the temporary steam blow piping and reconnect the piping to design conditions. The next step will be for the boiler to admit steam to the steam turbine. Once the steam turbine generator is synchronized to the grid, the plant will generate electricity that will move to the grid.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.