CEC Recommends Approval for 500 MW Palen Concentrating Solar Power Project

In its presiding member’s proposed decision (PMPD) released, the committee recommended either of two alternatives for the 500-megawatt facility that would eliminate impacts on biological resources.

The concentrated solar energy project, even with mitigation measures, will contribute to direct environmental impacts to visual resources and to cumulative environmental impacts in the areas of cultural resources, visual resources, and land use.

However, the benefits of the Concentrating Solar Power project would outweigh, and justify a legal override of, those impacts. In addition, the committee determined that the project complies with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards.

The proposed decision for the Palen Solar Power 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 entire document can be found on the Commission’s website at: www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/solar_millennium_palen/documents/

Palen Solar I, LLC, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, LLC, is the applicant for the Palen Solar Power Project. The project would be located about 10 miles east of Desert Center and about halfway between the cities of Indio and Blythe in eastern Riverside County.

A right-of-way grant is being sought for approximately 5,200 acres of land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Originally, construction and operation of the 500-MW project would have taken up about 2,970 acres.

The two alternatives recommended in the PMPD reconfigured the project to significantly reduce impacts on the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, sand dune habitat, and sand transport corridor. One alternative disturbs 4,365 acres, while the other alternative would take up about 4,330 acres.

The project is a concentrating solar trough thermal electric generating facility with two adjacent and independent units of 250 megawatts each for a total capacity of 500 megawatts. The proposed project would use parabolic trough technology where parabolic mirrors are used to heat a transfer fluid which is then used to generate steam. Electricity is produced from the steam expanding through steam turbine generators.

The Palen Solar Power Project is among nine large solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the full Commission before the end of the year. More than 4,100 megawatts of solar power will be added if all nine projects are approved.

The seven plants that have already have been licensed are: 250-MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project (Sept. 8); the 250-MW Beacon Solar Energy Project (Aug. 25); the 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power Project (Sept. 15); 663.5-MW Calico Solar Project (Oct. 28); the 250-MW Genesis Solar Energy Project (Sept. 29); the 709-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project (Sept. 29) ; and the 370-MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project (Sept. 22).

The 150-MW Rice Solar Energy Project is still under review.

The federal government and the State of California have established the need 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.