BLM issuing enviro review on power line upgrades to aid California solar projects

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said in a notice to be published in the Aug. 7 Federal Register that it has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the West of Devers Upgrade Project (WOD UP) and will take comment for 45 days on it.

This document is also an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Southern California Edison (SCE) proposes to upgrade and adjust the routes of existing 220 kV transmission lines within SCE’s existing West of Devers right-of-way corridor in incorporated and unincorporated areas of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, including: Devers-El Casco, El Casco-San Bernardino, Devers-San Bernardino, Devers-Vista No. 1 and No. 2, Etiwanda-San Bernardino, and San Bernardino-Vista.

Of the overall 48-mile length of the transmission corridor, approximately 6 miles would cross Trust Lands (Reservation) of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and approximately 1 mile is on BLM-administered public lands. The BLM lands are located east of the City of Banning and west of the City of Desert Hot Springs in Riverside County.

In addition to the transmission line improvements, substation equipment at Devers, El Casco, Etiwanda, San Bernardino, Timoteo and Tennessee and Vista substations would be upgraded to accommodate the project changes to transmission and subtransmission systems.

Construction of the WOD UP would facilitate the full deliverability of new renewable energy generation resources now being developed in eastern Riverside County, including the BLM’s Riverside East Solar Energy Zone, into the Los Angeles area, BLM noted. The WOD UP would facilitate progress towards meeting California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard goals requiring utilities to produce 33% of their electricity sales from renewable energy sources by 2020. Additionally, these upgrades are required to comply with transmission reliability standards and will support integration of small-scale electricity generation.

In addition to the proposed version of the project, the WOD UP Draft Joint EIR/EIS considers three project alternatives and a No Action/No Project alternative, as well as connected actions enabled by the project. The first alternative moves towers away from residences. The second alternative would place portions of the line underground. The third alternative would use fewer towers, and would not remove all the old towers and poles, leaving future expansion opportunities. Based on the small amount of BLM lands involved, and because of the lack of apparent resource conflicts for the BLM among the alternatives, the BLM has not identified a preferred alternative. The BLM will identify a preferred alternative for the Final EIS based on feedback on the Draft EIS from the public and cooperating agencies.

The website for the Palm Springs office of BLM says that as of April 2015, there were three first-in-line pending solar project applications located within or partially within the Riverside East Solar Energy Zone (SEZ). They are:

  • Palen Solar III LLC, Palen project, concentrating solar power (CSP) technology, 500 MW, applied in 2007;
  • First Solar, Desert Quartzite, photovoltaic, 700 MW, applied in 2007; and
  • Brightsource Energy, Sonoran West SEGS, CSP, 1,000 MW, applied in 2009.

There were also as of April 1 four authorized projects located within or partially within the SEZ:

  • NextEra Energy Resources LLC, McCoy FPL Energy, 5,440 acres, 750 MW, photovoltaic;
  • NextEra Blythe Solar Energy Center LLC, Blythe Solar Power Project, 4,313 acres, 485 MW, photovoltaic;
  • Genesis Solar LLC, Genesis Solar, 1,952 acres, 250 MW, parabolic trough facility; and
  • EDF Renewable Energy-Desert Harvest Solar, Desert Harvest, 1,198 acres, 150 MW, photovoltaic.
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.