Solar Thermal Power Expanding In California

The US federal government and the State of California have established the need for the nation and state to increase the development and use of renewable energy in order to enhance the nation’s energy independence, meet environmental goals, and create new economic growth opportunities.

In line with that objective, over the past month, the California Energy Commission has issued proposed decisions recommending the approval of more than 2,800 megawatts of solar power, including the Imperial Valley Solar Project and the Beacon Solar Energy Project described below. The other projects that are recommended to be considered for a license to construct are the 250 MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project; the 1,000 MW Blythe Solar Power Project; the 250 MW Genesis Solar Energy Project; and the 370 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project.

Beacon Solar Energy Project

The California Energy Commission approved the construction of the proposed Beacon Solar Energy Project, the first solar thermal power project permitted in 20 years.

“Today’s action begins the journey of increasing clean renewable energy in California,” said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas. Douglas served as the presiding member of the committee that reviewed the plant’s application for certification.

In a unanimous vote, the Energy Commission adopted the presiding member’s proposed decision (PMPD) that recommended licensing the 250-megawatt facility in eastern Kern County.

The last solar thermal power plants that the Energy Commission approved were Luz Solar Electric Generating Systems (SEGS) IX and Luz SEGS X in February 1990.

The PMPD for the Beacon Solar Energy Project said the facility, as mitigated, will have no significant impacts on the environment and complies with applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards. The PMPD was based solely on the record of facts that were established during the facility’s certification proceeding.

Beacon Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, would construct, own, and operate the proposed plant. The project is a concentrated solar electric generating facility on approximately 2,012-acres in eastern Kern County on the western edge of the Mojave Desert, four miles from California City and 15 miles north of the town of Mojave.

The project will use well-established parabolic trough solar thermal technology to produce electrical power using a steam turbine generator fed from a solar steam generator. The solar steam generators receive heated heat transfer fluid from solar thermal equipment comprised of arrays of parabolic mirrors that collect energy from the sun.

Imperial Valley Solar Project

At the same time, a California Energy Commission siting committee has recommended approval of the planned Imperial Valley Solar Project in Imperial County.

In its presiding member’s proposed decision, the committee adopted the proposed 709-megawatt project alternative preferred by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The project, even with mitigation measures, will have significant environmental impacts to biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources. The project will also be inconsistent with a land use provision in the Imperial Valley General Plan. However, the benefits of the project would override those impacts. In addition, the committee determined that the project complies with all other applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards.

The proposed decision for the Imperial Valley Solar Project was based solely on the record of facts, which were established during the facility’s certification proceeding. The PMPD is not a final decision on the project. The committee released the document for 30 days of public comment and will consider input before bringing the proposed decision to the full five-member Commission.

The Imperial Valley Solar Project is being developed by Imperial Valley Solar, LLC in Imperial County, California largely on public land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The project site is located approximately 14 miles west of El Centro.

The primary equipment for the generating facility would include approximately 28,000 25-kilowatt solar dish Stirling systems, or “SunCatchers”, consisting of a solar receiver heat exchanger and a closed-cycle, high efficiency engine designed to convert solar power to rotary power, then driving an electrical generator to produce electricity.

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