Energy Commission Fumes Over Permit Inadequacies

By Published On: October 9, 2009

Incomplete power plant project applications were front and center at this week’s California Energy Commission meeting. A record four project applications were rejected as data inadequate October 7. The proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power Project, Blythe Solar Power Project, Palen Solar Power Project, and Genesis Solar Power Project all were found by commission staff to be data short for various reasons. Commissioner Jeff Bryon noted the unprecedented data inadequacy findings, adding that several certification reviews in recent months have resulted in projects being sent back to the drawing board. “This is quite alarming for us,” he said. “This is unproductive, this is something we would like to control better but we have no choice,” he vented. Byron noted the project applicant was responsible for submitting a complete application. Commission chair Karen Douglas remarked that some project developers have grumbled about incomplete applications because they must go through the approval process multiple times, thereby clogging up the queue. The application for the Ridgecrest proposal was submitted by Solar Millennium, a German renewable energy developer. Solar Millennium and Chevron Energy Solutions are the joint developers of the Palen and Blythe projects, while the Genesis project application was submitted by Delaware-based NextEra Energy Resources. The Ridgecrest project is a planned 250 MW facility that would be situated within a 3,290 acre right-of-way grant on public lands in Kern County managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Project manager Eric Solorio said the application was found deficient in nine of 23 areas. The applicant hopes to file supplemental information by Oct. 15, Solorio said, and have the project reconsidered at the commission’s November 4 meeting. The Blythe project, a planned 1,000 MW facility in Riverside County, was found inadequate in 12 areas. The Palen project, a 500 MW project also planned for Riverside County, was inadequate in 13 areas, according to siting division project manager Alan Solomon. Specifically, Solomon mentioned that neither the Blythe or Palen applications identified a transmission route. He also said that the applicants were working on correcting the omissions. The hope was that they would file the missing information by October 14, in time to be placed on the commission’s November 4 meeting agenda. Project manager Mike Monasmith said the application for the proposed 250 MW Genesis project in the Riverside County desert was found data deficient in a dozen areas, including air quality and design. He mentioned that the applicant had filed supplemental information mid-week and the matter might be placed on the agenda for the board’s next meeting, scheduled for October 21. Also during the meeting, the commission approved a $992,903 contract with the Gas Technology Institute to develop and test a cost-effective technology that can produce transportation-quality liquefied natural gas from landfill gas. Liquefied natural gas has potential as an alternative to diesel fuel with greenhouse gas reduction benefits, said Gas Technology Institute state project development specialist Susan Patterson. “We’re hoping to increase use of biogas as a transportation fuel rather than how it’s used today,” she said. Patterson had been a member of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District board of directors for 10 years until leaving last December. Plans are to develop and demonstrate the bio-waste to energy technology at the Altamont Landfill and Resource Recovery Facility in Livermore, she said.

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