California commission terminates approval for 500-MW Palen solar project

The members of the California Energy Commission on Feb. 11 rejected an extension of time for an approval on the long-delayed Palen solar project, leaving the project’s new developer with the choice of appealing that decision or filing a new application.

In August 2009, original developer Palen Solar I LLC filed an Application for Certification (AFC) with the commission to construct and operate a nominal 500-MW concentrating solar thermal electric facility using parabolic trough technology. The commission issued a final decision approving two alternative configurations for the Palen Solar Power Project (PSPP) in December 2010.

In December 2012, the project owner filed a major amendment to change the technology to solar power towers. The amendment was withdrawn in September 2014. On Sept. 16, 2015, the Energy Commission adopted an order granting the project owner’s petition to extend the time to construct the plant from Dec. 15, 2015, to Dec. 15, 2016, provided that a project amendment to include solar trough generating technology and energy storage capabilities was filed by Dec. 22, 2015.

On Dec. 15, 2015, the project owner filed a petition to transfer ownership to Maverick Solar LLC, but not the amendment. That petition included a request for a 12-month extension of the start of construction date to Dec. 15, 2016. On Dec. 22, the project owner filed a petition for extension of deadline for commencement of construction to June 15, 2017, with a recommended condition that the new owner (Maverick) file a petition to amend the PSPP by June 15, 2016.

Said the Feb. 11 commission decision: “We have considered all of the Petitioner’s filings, comments and responses to questions included in the January 11, 2016 Notice of Hearing as well as the comments of Staff and other interested persons. We need not address the question of good cause for an extension raised in the pleadings and comments because this is a purely procedural matter that precludes deciding the merits of the Petitioner’s requests. The September 16, 2015 Order granting that extension was deliberately designed to be self-executing. The one-year extension was dependent upon the Petitioner filing a petition to amend the PSPP to include storage with the solar trough technology. When the Petitioner failed to do so, the certificate expired by the terms of the Order. Nothing in the record compels us to revisit the Order. Therefore, the Petition for an Extension to Commence Construction is DENIED because the PSPP certificate has expired. However, at the request of the Petitioner, the Petition for Transfer of Ownership for the PSPP from Palen SEGS I to Maverick Solar LLC is GRANTED.”

The company can file for reconsideration of this order or seek judicial review. No reconsideration request had been filed with the commission as of Feb. 16.

Maverick Solar is controlled by EDF Renewable Energy. The former owner is Abengoa SA out of Spain.

The project as currently configured is a concentrated solar thermal facility with two identical solar plants of 250 MW nominal capacity each for a total capacity of 500 MW nominal. The project site is about 10 miles east of Desert Center, along Interstate 10 between the cities of Indio and Blythe in Riverside County, California.

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.