California commission looks at issues with 500-MW Palen solar project

The California Energy Commission’s committee reviewing the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project Amendment will hold a Jan. 7 conference on a schedule extension and supplemental record for the amendment request.

The conference is being held to allow the Palen Solar Power Project Committee to receive and consider comments from the parties, governmental agencies, and members of the public on the schedule extension granted on Dec. 23, 2013, and the petitioner’s plan to supplement the record on the benefits of the project and avian issues.

In the presiding commission member’s proposed decision (called a PMPD) issued on Dec. 13, 2013, the committee found that the petitioner’s requested amendment, similar to the approved solar trough project, will have significant unmitigable impacts to cultural and visual resources. The committee also found that the amended project will result in significant and unmitigable impacts to biological resources due to the risk of solar flux on avian species. The committee has recommended denying the project amendment, finding that the totality of the project impacts outweighs the totality of the project benefits.

On Dec. 23, 2013, the committee granted the petitioner’s request to delay the schedule and extend the deadline to submit comments on the PMPD to a date to be determined at its committee conference. The committee will also hear how the petitioner intends to proceed in gathering and submitting information “relating to potential impacts to avian species and benefits of the project.”

After the conference, the committee will consider the parties’ comments, establish the schedule and determine the need for any additional hearings prior to recommending a decision to the full five-member Energy Commission for deliberation and final consideration.

In December 2010, the commission approved the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project, a solar thermal power project using parabolic trough technology. In December 2012, the new project owner, Palen Solar Holdings LLC, filed an amendment with the commission requesting to change the technology to solar power tower.

The petitioner for the amended project now known as the Palen Solar Electric Generating System is Palen Solar Holdings, a joint venture of BrightSource Energy and Abengoa. The amendment proposal consists of two 250-MW solar power towers and 170,000 heliostats. The Palen project would be located about 10 miles east of Desert Center, halfway between Indio and Blythe, in eastern Riverside County.

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.