During its final meeting of 2011, the California Energy Commission said goodbye to a retiring member and hello to the possibility of a 750 MW solar facility in Riverside County. On a unanimous vote Dec. 14, the commission accepted an application from BrightSource Energy for the planned Rio Mesa Solar facility. The project’s proposed on 5,750 acres of land in Riverside County. “The AFC [application for certification] now meets all requirements,” project manager Pierre Martinez said. Rio Mesa’s comprised of three solar fields about 13 miles southwest of Blythe. Each solar field would utilize about 85,000 heliostats and generate about 250 MW each of power, according to the application. This was the second time in as many months that BrightSource had submitted the application to the Energy Commission. On Nov. 16 it was rejected due to having insufficient data in several areas, including studies on air quality, biological effects, and water resources. With the application complete, the project now goes on to face a review of up to a year or more. The commission also appointed a committee to oversee an application for a small power plant exemption filed for the second phase of an upgrade of a data center in Santa Clara. Xeres Ventures, which owns the Santa Clara SC-1 Data Center, wants to install 16 backup generators at the data center, which would double the current number. Each generator can produce 2.25 MW, which would amount to a total capacity of 72 MW. The backup generators aren’t connected to the power grid, and Xeres says the generators would only be used in the event of a power outage. State regulations mandate the commission to oversee the permitting of power generation over 50 MW, which is why Xeres submitted its bid for small plant exemption. If a power plant project is between 50 and 100 MWs, the commission can choose to exempt it from its review process. Additionally, the CEC approved transferring ownership of the Sutter Energy Center Project pipeline from Calpine Construction Finance to CPN Pipeline Co. Both are subsidiaries of Calpine Corp., and no operational changes to the project are changed, according to project manager Christine Stora. The Sutter project is a 540 MW natural gas facility about seven miles southwest of Yuba City. It began producing power in July 2001. This was the final business meeting as a commissioner for Jim Boyd, who has filled the CEC’s designated economist seat since being appointed in February 2002 by then-Gov. Gray Davis. His departure at the end of the month will leave just three commissioners on the board--a bare quorum. The office of Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated when it will submit an applicant to fill Boyd’s seat, or the commission’s designated environmentalist seat, which has been vacant throughout most of 2011.