CEC approves 370MW Ivanpah solar power plant in Mojave Desert

Source: California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission today approved the construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project in the Mojave Desert. It is the fourth solar thermal power plant licensed by the Commission in the past month. 

In a unanimous vote, the Energy Commission adopted the presiding member's proposed decision (PMPD) that recommended licensing the facility proposed for San Bernardino County. In order to qualify for federal stimulus funds, the project needed to be approved by the Energy Commission before December 31, 2010. 

"This project presented us with significant environmental challenges," said Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron. "However, the applicant's changes to the original proposal and the constructive input of a record number of participants mean the Ivanpah project will now produce renewable energy and provide needed economic activity to the region while minimizing the impact to the desert's natural environment." 

Byron served as the presiding member of the committee that reviewed the plant's application for certification.
The 370-megawatt project would be among the first commercial solar thermal power plants permitted on federal public land in the United States. The project still requires a decision from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which approves the use of federal public lands, before it can proceed. The BLM's action is scheduled for October. 

BrightSource Energy, Inc. of Oakland would develop three solar thermal power plants and shared facilities in the Mojave Desert west of Ivanpah Dry Lake and 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nevada. The project would be located on 3,582 acres of public land managed by BLM. The project's footprint was reduced by 12 percent from 4,073 acres to 3,582 acres to lessen the impact to biological resources. 

The project would be constructed in three phases: one 120-MW phase and two 125-MW phases and is based on distributed power tower and heliostat mirror technology, in which heliostat (mirror) fields focus solar energy on tower receivers near the center of each heliostat array to generate steam-driven electricity. 

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project is one of nine large solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the Commission before the end of the year. More than 4,300 megawatts of solar power will be added if all nine projects are approved. The nine projects would provide more than 8,000 construction jobs and more than 1,000 operational jobs. 

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The three previously licensed plants are: the 250-MW Beacon Solar Energy Project (Aug. 25); the 250-MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project (Sept. 8); and the 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power Project (Sept. 15). Two projects, the 250-MW Genesis Solar Energy Project and the 709-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project, are scheduled for a vote at the Sept. 29 meeting. Three other projects (the 850-MW Calico Solar Project; the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project; and the 150-MW Rice Solar Energy Project) are still under review. 

The PMPD for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project said the facility, even with mitigation measures, will have significant impacts on biological resources, land use, traffic and transportation, transmission systems engineering, and visual resources. However, the benefits of the project would override those impacts. In addition, the committee determined the project complies with all 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. 

The proposed solar thermal power projects that the Energy Commission is considering will help meet the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard, which requires California's electricity utility companies to use renewable energy to produce 20 percent of their power by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. Solar energy is a main source of renewable power. 

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