For Immediate Release: September 15, 2010
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Licenses 1,000 MW Solar Power Plant
Blythe Project Would Be Largest Concentrated Solar Power Plant in the World

SACRAMENTO - In a move to increase renewable energy in California, the California Energy Commission today approved the construction of the 1,000-megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project. The plant would be the world's largest concentrated solar power facility. Additionally, the project would be among the first commercial solar thermal power plants permitted on federal public land in the United States.

In a unanimous vote, the Energy Commission adopted the presiding member's proposed decision (PMPD) that recommended licensing the facility proposed for eastern Riverside County.

"We are excited to add 1,000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy that will provide Californians with green jobs while advancing the State's renewable energy and climate goals," said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas, who served as the presiding member of the committee that reviewed the plant's application for certification. "The success in licensing the Blythe project is due to the strong collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is a significant step forward for California."

The project is the first solar thermal power plant on federal land to be voted upon by the Commission. The BLM, which approves the use of U.S. public lands, is scheduled to make a decision before the end of October. The BLM ruling is the final step before the project can proceed.

The Blythe Solar Power Project is among nine large solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the Energy Commission for a decision before the end of 2010 in order to qualify for federal stimulus funds. 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.

The eight other high priority projects are: the 250-MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project; the 250-MW Beacon Solar Energy Project; the 850-MW Calico Solar Project; the 250-MW Genesis Solar Energy Project; the 709-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project; the 370-MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project; the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project; and the 150-MW Rice Solar Energy Project.

The Blythe Solar Power Project is the third project that the Commission has approved in three weeks. The Beacon Solar Energy Project, the first solar thermal power plant permitted in 20 years, was licensed Aug. 25 and the Abengoa Mojave Solar Project on Sept. 8.

The PMPD for the Blythe Solar Power Project said the facility, even with mitigation measures, will have significant impacts on cultural resources, land use, traffic and transportation, and visual resources. The project will also be inconsistent with a land use provision in the Riverside County Land Use Plan. However, the benefits of the project would justify a legal override of those impacts. In addition, the committee determined the project complies with all other 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 Blythe Solar Power Project is being developed by Solar Millennium, LLC, a subsidiary of Solar Trust of America. The project site is located in an unincorporated area of Riverside County, approximately two miles north of U.S. Interstate 10 and eight miles west of Blythe. The applicants have applied for a right-of-way authorization from the BLM for 9,400 acres, with 7,025 acres for construction and operation.

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 project's proposed 1,000-MW output will be generated by four independent 250-MW units.

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.

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.

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