BLM to re-look at impacts of revamped Blythe Solar project

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) considering proposed amendments to the Blythe Solar Power Project (BSPP) right-of-way (ROW) grant, said BLM in a notice to be published in the Aug. 30 Federal Register.

The amendments include a change in technology, reduced project footprint, and operation by a different project owner. The Aug. 30 notice opens the scoping process to solicit public comments and identify issues for the upcoming EIS.

The BSPP was originally permitted and approved in October 2010 as a 1,000 MW solar thermal generating plant located on 6,831 acres of BLM-administered public land under the agency’s Palm Springs Field Office. The project area is located eight miles west of Blythe, Calif., and three miles north of Interstate 10.

The ROW grant was originally issued to Palo Verde Solar I LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Solar Millennium, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2012, BLM noted. In October 2012, NextEra Blythe Solar Energy Center LLC (NBSEC) purchased the unbuilt BSPP as part of the bankruptcy process. The BLM approved the assignment of the ROW grant from the Palo Verde Solar I LLC to NBSEC in August 2012.

NBSEC now proposes to modify the solar technology and reduce the size of the project within the previously approved BSPP footprint. The NBSEC is proposing to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission the BSPP using solar photovoltaic technology with a capacity of 485 MW on 4,138 acres of BLM-administered public land, as opposed to the originally approved 1,000 MW on 6,831 acres. The NBSEC has submitted an amendment to the existing ROW grant to reduce the overall acreage of the project, change the authorized technology from concentrating solar trough to solar PV, adjust other aspects of the project layout related to the technology change, and reduce the BSPP’s authorized capacity from 1,000 MW to 485 MW.

BLM has decided that the requested amendment is not within the range of alternatives analyzed in the EIS prepared in connection with the original 2010 decision for the project, so the agency must undertake additional analysis to evaluate the proposed amendment.

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.