California greenlights 485 MW PV project

The California Energy Commission on Wednesday approved NextEra Energy’s plan to use photovoltaic technology rather than the previously approved solar parabolic trough system for its planned 484 MW Blythe Solar Power Project.

NextEra, which took over the project in April 2013, filed a revised amendment with the commission to reduce the original project’s planned physical size and generation capacity.

The company is set to build the facility on 4,070 acres (1,647 hectares) of public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in four phases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourth generating 110 MW. The site is located some 13 kilometers west of the city of Blythe in eastern Riverside County.

The original project owner, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, had filed an amendment with the commission in June 2012 to switch to solar PV, which led to a commission review of the plans.

"The project will spur California’s transition to renewable energy and help advance its aggressive climate change goals," said Commissioner Karen Douglas, who is the presiding member of the committee reviewing the Blythe Solar Power Project amendment.

The committee found that the project benefits — including its contribution to meeting California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating nearly 500 peak construction jobs and boosting the economy – outweighed a number of environmental impacts that it said were "cumulatively significant when considered along with the impacts of other projects in the region."

Among the committee’s concerns were impacts to biological resources, cultural resources, land use and visual resources.

Budgeted at $1.13 billion, construction of the project is expected to last 48 months and employ an average of 341 workers (and a peak of 499) during construction.

The commission originally approved the project, initially planned as a 1 GW plant, in 2010.