1,000 MW Solar Thermal Slides Through CEC

By Published On: September 17, 2010

The California Energy Commission authorized the 1,000 MW, $6 billion, Blythe Solar Power Project September 15. It would be one of the largest alternative energy projects in the state if built. “This is the largest solar thermal project ever to come before the California Energy Commission, and its approval and eventual construction will be a significant step forward,” said commission chair Karen Douglas. It was the third straight meeting that a solar thermal plant was approved. It follows the September 8 okay of the 250 MW Abengoa Mojave project and backing August 25 for the 250 MW Beacon Solar project. Blythe Solar is a joint venture between two German companies--Solar Millennium and Ferrostall. The latter is an industrial services corporation. The project consists of four adjacent and identical solar plants of 250 MW each. The project would sit on about 9,400 acres of federally-owned land located about eight miles west of Blythe. Blythe’s output is under contract to Southern California Edison. Although the committee recommended that the commission approve the project after a review of several months, it also acknowledged that Blythe would cause certain environmental impacts. “The committee found that the project would significantly impact biological resources, but those impacts would be mitigated to below the level of significance through a comprehensive mitigation scheme,” said commission hearing officer Raoul Renaud. He added that there would be other, immitigable impacts, including possible “glint and glare” from the project’s solar collection discs that might affect Blythe Airport, located about a mile away. But ultimately, he said, the committee decided the benefits, including helping the state reach its renewable energy goals, outweighed the potential negatives, a belief echoed by Douglas. “I am convinced that the substantial benefits of this project definitely outweigh those remaining impacts that cannot be mitigated,” she said. Commissioner Bob Weisenmiller, who also sat on the siting committee, said that the Blythe project’s environmental benefits would be tremendous. “Given the challenge of climate change at this time, it’s very important to reduce fossil fuel use,” he said. “By moving forward with the largest solar project in California at this stage, we’re taking a huge step toward reducing the threat of future climate change impacts on the state.” The project still needs permission from the Bureau of Land Management before construction can proceed. The BLM is expected to consider it next month.

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