For Immediate Release: October 11, 2010
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


Joint Staff Assessment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Released for Rice Solar Energy Project in Riverside County

SACRAMENTO - The staff of the California Energy Commission, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Western Area Power Administration today released a joint staff assessment/draft environmental impact statement (SA/DEIS) for the proposed 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project.

The facility, planned 15 miles northeast of Vidal Junction in unincorporated eastern Riverside County, would help meet California's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and producing 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The Rice Solar Energy Project is being proposed by Rice Solar Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of SolarReserve, LLC. The facility will be located 15 miles northeast of Vidal Junction and about 40 miles northwest of Blythe. The project will be on 1,410 acres of a 2,560-acre parcel of private land located immediately south of State Route 62. A 161-kilovolt generation tie line and substation would be located partly on BLM land.

The project's applicant has applied to Western to interconnect the facility to Western's transmission system. A right-of-way grant and California Desert Conservation Area plan amendment are required since the project is partially on BLM land.

While not a final decision on the project, the SA/DEIS will serve as the Energy Commission staff's testimony and recommended mitigation measures during the Energy Commission's evidentiary hearings on the proposed project. The joint SA/DEIS for the Rice Solar Energy Project is now available for public comment. A notice of availability for the SA/DEIS is being posted and distributed by the BLM and Western and will be published in the Federal Register. An official 90-day comment period will begin upon publication in the Federal Register.

The Energy Commission will conduct evidentiary hearings and Commission staff/BLM/Western will publish a Revised Staff Assessment/Final Environmental Impact Statement (RSA/FEIS). The Energy Commission will then publish the Presiding Member's Proposed Decision (PMPD). The PMPD will be available for public review and comment, after which the full Commission renders a final decision. Western will make a decision on the approval to interconnect, while the BLM will issue a decision on the right-of-way grant.

The Energy Commission and the BLM jointly review solar thermal projects of 50 megawatts and greater proposed on public land managed by the BLM. The Energy Commission is the lead permitting agency under the California Environmental Quality Act. Western is the lead permitting agency under the National Environmental Policy Act, while the BLM is the cooperating agency.

The Rice Solar Energy Project is a concentrating solar thermal power project with a central receiver tower, sun-tracking heliostat field and an integrated thermal storage system using molten salt as the heat transfer and storage medium. A large field of 17,500 mirrors or heliostats concentrates and focuses the sun's energy onto a 638-foot-tall central receiver. The project uses thermal energy storage that allows solar energy to be captured throughout the day and retained in a molten salt heat transfer fluid. When electricity is generated, the hot liquid salt is routed to heat exchangers to heat water and produce steam. The steam is used to generate electricity in a conventional steam turbine cycle.

The project is among the nine large solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the Energy Commission before the end of the year to qualify for federal stimulus funds. More than 4,100 megawatts of solar power will be added if all nine projects are approved.

The six plants that have been licensed are: the 250-MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project (Sept. 8); the 250-MW Beacon Solar Energy Project (Aug. 25); the 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power Project (Sept. 15); the 250-MW Genesis Solar Energy Project (Sept. 29); the 709-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project (Sept. 29); and the 370-MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project (Sept. 22). The 663.5-MW Calico Solar Project is scheduled for the Oct. 28 meeting.

The Rice Solar Energy Project and the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project are the two still under review.

For additional details on the Rice Solar Energy Project SA/DEIS, click on:

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