Whole 1 GW Blythe project to convert to PV


Last August, the now insolvent Solar Millennium AG announced that the first 500 MW phase of the BSPP would use photovoltaics instead of solar thermal (CSP) technology. At the time, the company was unsure if the remaining 500 MW would also go the same way.

However, wholly owned Solar Millennium subsidiary, Palo Verde Solar I, llC (PVSI), filed a petition to "completely" replace solar thermal technology with photovoltaics with the California Energy Commission (Energy Commission) on June 28.

PVSI, which itself filed a Chapter 11 Voluntary Petition with the Delaware Bankruptcy Court this April 2, is proposing to develop the one GW project over eight phases of 125 MW each. "Access to the site will be the same as the approved project described in the final decision, and the BSPP will continue to interconnect to the regional transmission grid at Southern California Edison’s Colorado River Substation (CRS) which is currently under construction," it said in the petition.

It added that if the Energy Commission approves the plans, construction could begin on the first phase "as early as" April 2013.

At the end of June, Solar Millennium announced that U.S.-based NextEra would take over its Blythe project. A spokesperson for NextEra told pv magazine today that while the sale of the project has been affirmed, it does not yet own the project. "We would anticipate that as the filing below indicates the Blythe project would be a PV project going forward. The switch is due mainly to the cost competitiveness of PV," they said, adding "It is early in the process and we have not selected any vendors … this is still very much a development project."

Construction work began on the BSPP in June 2011. Meanwhile, it April of the same year, Solar Millennium was offered a conditional commitment for a U.S. $2.1 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to develop 500 MW of CSP. However, at the time of the company’s August announcement, a spokesperson told pv magazine that CSP is "too unknown" for commercial funding, and that the timeline of August, given to them by the DOE, was "too short to realize non-commercial FC for Blythe as a CSP project".

They added, "DoE understands the benefits of CSP, but the tariff structures do not take these benefits under consideration, yet."