California commission issues report on 500-MW Palen Solar project

The California Energy Commission staff on June 28 released its preliminary analysis of the proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System project.

In the preliminary staff assessment (PSA), staff concluded that, in all but nine technical sections, with the implementation of recommended mitigation measures described in the conditions of certification, the proposed 500-MW solar thermal power tower project would comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards (LORS) and that environmental impacts would be less than significant.

The nine technical areas with either a significant, unmitigated impact, LORS non-compliance, or outstanding issues that need to be resolved through additional data, further discussion and/or analysis are: air quality/greenhouse gases; biological resources; cultural resources; geology and paleontology; socioeconomics; traffic and transportation; visual resources; waste management; and worker safety and fire protection.

The PSA is the staff’s initial evaluation of the environmental, engineering, public health and safety impacts of the proposed facility. This document is not a decision nor does it contain final findings of the commission related to the environmental impacts or the project’s compliance with local, state and federal legal requirements.

After receiving public comments and conducting public workshops on the PSA, staff will publish a final staff assessment, which will serve as staff’s testimony at evidentiary hearings conducted by the committee of two commissioners reviewing the proposed project. The committee will issue a proposed decision based on evidence presented at the hearings. The proposed decision will be presented to the full commission for a final decision.

In December 2010, the commission approved the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project, which would use parabolic trough technology. In December 2012, a new project owner filed an amendment requesting to change the technology from parabolic trough to solar power tower. The applicant for the amended project, now called the Palen Solar Electric Generating System, is Palen Solar Holdings LLC, a joint venture of BrightSource Energy Inc. and Abengoa.

The proposed project consists of two 250-MW solar plants for a total of 500 MW. Each plant would have about 85,000 heliostat. Heliostats are elevated mirrors used to focus the sun’s rays on a solar receiver which produces steam to generate electricity. The solar receiver would be located on a 750-foot power tower near the center of each solar field.

The project site is located about 10 miles east of Desert Center, halfway between Indio and Blythe, in eastern Riverside County. The project owner has provided an estimated capital cost for construction of the project as $2bn. If the commission approves the Palen amendment, the project owner plans to start construction during the fourth quarter of 2013 with commercial operation in June 2016.

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.