Blythe Solar Project Environmental Review Progresses

By Published On: March 14, 2014

NextEra’s Blythe Solar Energy Center—now slated as a utility-scale photovoltaic project instead of a solar thermal facility—would have far fewer environmental impacts compared to its original configuration. That’s according to a Bureau of Land Management Draft Environmental Impact Statement released earlier this winter on which the public comment period closes March 24. Blythe Solar Energy Center would use less than two-thirds the land, less than a third of the water, and have commensurately less impact on wildlife in the California desert area near Blythe in Riverside County, according to the statement. It also would create less glint and glare than the solar thermal configuration—which matters to pilots and birds—and likely would cause less blowing dust when being built and operated, according to the statement. The modified project is reduced in size from the original 6,831 acres to approximately 4,138 acres. It would produce 485 MW, down from the originally planned capacity of 1,000 MW. It would connect to the existing Southern California Edison Colorado River Substation. The draft statement follows the California Energy Commission’s approval in January of NextEra’s plan to convert the previously approved solar thermal project to photovoltaic panels (Current, Jan. 17, 2014). The developer says the $1.1 billion facility would be built in four phases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourth 110 MW. Construction would take about four years. However, before construction begins BLM must issue a final environmental impact statement followed by a record of decision.

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