California finds significant impacts from Palen solar concentrated solar power (CSP) project

The CEC found that the concentrating solar power project did not comply with rules regarding visual impacts.

Even with mitigation measures, the California Energy Commission (CEC) found “significant” environmental impacts from the 500 MW Palen concentrated solar power (CSP) project in its final staff assessment (FSA). It also found that the project does not comply with rules for visual resources, and is uncertain if adaptations for birds will mitigate impacts.

This is the first of three parts of the FSA, and will be followed by a cultural resources section and an air quality/greenhouse gases section. While the document does not represent a decision on the project these findings do not bode well for the coming CEC approval process, where it will be used as evidence.

Following the publication of preliminary CEC findings, Desert Sun Renewable Energy Writer K Kaufmann noted that the area of cultural resources may also be a major concern for the project going forward, given past legal challenges to other CSP projects in Southern California.

The CEC had approved the 500 MW Palen CSP project using parabolic trough technology in December 2010. However, after BrightSource Energy Inc. (Oakland, California, U.S.) and Abengoa acquired the project they changed it to a solar power tower design, which necessitated a new approval process.

The new proposed Palen CSP project will entail two adjacent 250 MW CSP plants, each comprising 85,000 mirror structures (heliostats), and 230 meter tower structures. The project is located 500 meters north of Interstate 10 on public land between the towns of Indio and Blythe in Southern California’s Riverside County.