California commission issues report on 485-MW Blythe Solar project

The California Energy Commission staff has released its analysis of the proposed Blythe Solar Power Project Amendment, which involves a 485-MW solar photovoltaic facility.

The document was published in two parts. The first part was published Sept. 23. Commission staff concluded that with the implementation of recommended mitigation measures described in the conditions of certification, the environmental impacts for proposed 485-MW solar photovoltaic project would be less than significant. Staff also found that the project would comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards (LORS).

The second part of the assessment, which consisted of six technical areas, was released Oct. 11. The analysis determined that the project would have significant cumulative environmental impacts in the areas of biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources even with the implementation of staff’s recommended mitigation measures. The project would have direct impacts in the area of cultural resources.

The assessment serves as the staff’s evaluation of the environmental, engineering, public health and safety impacts of the proposed facility. It is not a decision nor does it contain final findings related to the environmental impacts or the project’s compliance with local, state and federal legal requirements. Commission staff plans to hold a workshop to discuss the analysis, mitigation, and conditions of certification identified.

The assessment will serve as commission staff’s testimony at evidentiary hearings held by a committee of two commissioners who are reviewing the proposed project. The committee will issue a proposed decision based on evidence presented at the hearings. The proposed decision will later be presented to the full commission for a final decision.

This is a revamp of a 1,000 MW project with a different solar technology

In September 2010, the commission approved the 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power Project, a solar thermal project using parabolic trough technology. The project site is located about eight miles west of Blythe in eastern Riverside County.

The project owner, Palo Verdes Solar I LLC, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, filed an amendment in June 2012 with the commission requesting to switch the technology to solar photovoltaic. In April, the new project owner, NextEra Blythe Solar Energy Center LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE), filed a revised amendment with the commission to reduce the project’s physical size and the generation capacity.

The proposed 485-MW project would be developed in four phases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourth of 110 MW. If the amended project is approved, construction would last 48 months. The estimated capital cost for construction of the project is $1.13bn, according to the project owner.

As with the prior version of the project, the proposed tie-in line would be a single-circuit 230-kV transmission line connecting the project’s on-site 230-kV switchyard to the Southern California Edison Colorado River Substation.

Staff has estimated that the modified project would produce electric energy within a range of 1,052 to 1,450 gigawatt hours (GWh) annually, depending on the mix of fixed and tracking PV panels.

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.