California commission agrees to five-year delay for geothermal project

The California Energy Commission has granted a project developer request to extend the construction deadline by five years on a long-delayed, 159-MW geothermal project.

The proposed Black Rock 1, 2, and 3 Geothermal Power Plant, owned by CE Obsidian Energy LLC, is a 159-MW project located near Calipatria in Imperial County, California. Black Rock 1, 2 and 3 was certified by the California Energy Commission in December 2003. Two previous petitions to extend commencement of construction deadlines for three years each were approved by the Energy Commission. A petition to amend the Energy Commission decision was also approved in February 2011 significantly revising the Salton Sea Unit 6 Geothermal project and changing the name to Black Rock 1, 2 and 3.

On June 11, 2014, CE Obsidian filed a petition to extend the deadline to commence construction for Black Rock 1, 2, and 3 from Dec. 18, 2014, to Dec. 18, 2019. That extension was approved on Dec. 26 by the Energy Commission. “Based on staff’s analysis, the Energy Commission finds that the proposed changes will not result in any significant impact to public health and safety, or the environment,” said the extension order.

CE Obsidian told the commission there are two main reasons for the new delay: issues with getting a transmission service agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District; and with getting a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the project’s capacity. The company said it is working to bid this power to three unnamed investor-owned utilities. But even if its project is picked, there will still need to be negotiation of any PPA or PPAs, plus a California Public Utilities Commission review process, which could take until the end of 2017 to complete.

A project contact is Randy Keller, 760-485-8845, randy.keller@calenergy.com.

This project is affiliated with CalEnergy LLC, which owns and operates 10 geothermal generation facilities in the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area in California’s Imperial Valley. CalEnergy, also known as MidAmerican Geothermal, is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Renewables LLC.

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.