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


CA Energy Commission Approves 650 MW of Solar Power in California Desert
Two Solar Thermal Power Plants to be Built in Riverside County

SACRAMENTO - Capping a successful string of licensing solar energy facilities, the California Energy Commission today approved 650 megawatts of solar power in Southern California.

The Palen Solar Power Project and the Rice Solar Energy Project, both in Riverside County, are the eighth and ninth solar thermal power plants that the Energy Commission has licensed in the past four months. Since late August, the Commission has licensed more than 4,100 megawatts of renewable solar power in the California desert.

The nine projects represent exactly 4,142.5 megawatts and would provide more than 8,000 construction jobs and more than 1,000 operational jobs. One megawatt is equivalent to powering 750 single family homes.

"Today is a bright day for California. By approving these projects, California continues to demonstrate its leadership and commitment to support clean, renewable energy. These solar projects will reinvigorate our economy and bring jobs to hard-hit communities. As we look to harness more renewable sources of energy by 2020, California leads the nation by embracing the power of the sun," said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas.

In two separate unanimous votes, the Energy Commission adopted the presiding member's proposed decisions (PMPD) that recommended licensing the 500-MW Palen project and the 150-MW Rice project. In order to qualify for federal stimulus funds, the projects needed to be approved by the Energy Commission before December 31, 2010.

During the construction of the Palen project, a peak workforce of 1,145 will be required, with another 134 jobs when the plant is in operation. With the Rice project, a peak workforce of 438 will be needed during construction, with another 47 jobs when the plant is operating.

These projects are a direct result of the successful partnership between California and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). In October 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made California the first state to sign a memo of understanding with the DOI to develop long-term renewable energy plans through state and federal permitting processes for projects that can receive federal tax credits of 30 percent under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

Both projects still require decisions from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which approves the use of federal public lands, before they can proceed. The Rice project also requires approval from the Western Area Power Administration. Those approvals are scheduled to be made in 2011.

Palen Solar I, LLC, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, LLC, is the applicant for the Palen project. Solar Millennium is a subsidiary of Solar Trust of America, LLC. The project would be located halfway between the cities of Indio and Blythe in eastern Riverside County.

A right-of-way grant is being sought for approximately 5,200 acres of land managed by the BLM. Originally, construction and operation of the 500-MW project would have been 2,970 acres.

In the PMPD, the committee recommended either of two alternative configurations for the Palen project that would eliminate impacts on biological resources. The two alternatives reconfigured the project to significantly reduce impacts on the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, sand dune habitat, and sand transport corridor. One alternative disturbs 4,365 acres, while the other alternative would take up about 4,330 acres.

Today's Commission vote allows the applicant to construct either of the two alternative configurations.

The project is a concentrating solar trough thermal electric generating facility with two adjacent and independent units of 250 megawatts each for a total capacity of 500 megawatts. 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 Rice Solar Energy Project is being proposed by Rice Solar Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of SolarReserve, LLC. The facility will be located about 40 miles northwest of Blythe in eastern Riverside County. The project will be on 1,387 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 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 mirrors or heliostats concentrates and focuses the sun's energy onto a 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 PMPD for Palen stated the facility, even with mitigation measures, will contribute to direct environmental impacts to visual resources and to cumulative environmental impacts in the areas of cultural resources, visual resources, and land use. The PMPD for Rice stated the facility, even with mitigation measures, could have direct and cumulative environmental impacts in the area of visual resources. However, the benefits of the projects would outweigh, and justify a legal override of, those impacts. The PMPDs were based solely on the record of facts that were established during the facilities' certification proceedings.

The seven previously licensed plants 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 663.5-MW Calico Solar Project (Oct. 28); 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 nine approved solar thermal power projects will help California meet the Renewables Portfolio Standard, which requires the state's electricity utility companies to use renewable energy to produce 20 percent of their power by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020.

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 economic growth opportunities.

For company information:

Solar Trust of America, LLC
Bill Keegan
(312) 927-8424

SolarReserve, LLC
Debra Hotaling
(310) 482-4273

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