For Immediate Release: December 14, 2011
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Begins Review for
Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission has started the review of a proposed 750-megawatt (MW) solar thermal power project in Riverside County. At a regular business meeting today, the Energy Commission voted to accept the application for certification for the Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility as data adequate.

Data adequacy means the Energy Commission received enough information from the applicant to begin the discovery and analysis phases of the certification process. The developers for the project are Rio Mesa Solar I, LLC, Rio Mesa Solar II, LLC, and Rio Mesa Solar III, LLC, which are subsidiaries of BrightSource Energy, Inc.

The Commission named Energy Commissioner Carla Peterman as the presiding member of the committee reviewing the project. Commissioner Karen Douglas is the associate committee member. The committee will ensure that the project meets the Energy Commission's siting requirements, as well as those of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Energy Commission licenses thermal electric power plants that are 50 MWs and greater in California.

As lead agency under CEQA, the Energy Commission, through its facility certification process, examines public health and safety, environmental impacts, and engineering aspects of proposed power plants and all related facilities, such as electric transmission lines and natural gas and water pipelines.

Because the Rio Mesa project is partially on federal public land, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will require an environmental impact statement and approval for a right-of-way grant. The Energy Commission works closely with the BLM in reviewing applications for large solar thermal power projects proposed on federal lands. Projects located on BLM-managed lands require both federal and state approval.

The proposed project site consists of three 250-MW solar thermal power plants located on the Palo Verde Mesa in Riverside County, about 13 miles southwest of Blythe. The site is partially on private land and partially on public land administered by the BLM.

The total area required for the three plants and a common area with shared facilities is about 5,750 acres. Each plant will use heliostats - elevated mirrors guided by a tracking system mounted on a pylon - to focus the sun's rays on a receiver located on top of a 750-foot-tall solar power tower near the center of each solar field. Each plant would use about 85,000 heliostats.

Construction of the project, from site preparation and grading to commercial operation, is expected to take place from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the second quarter of 2016.

The capital construction cost for the project will be about $3 billion. The project will average 1,040 workers per month during the 36-month construction period, with a maximum of 2,493 at the peak. There will be 150 full-time employees when the project is operating.

More information on the Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility can be found at:

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. Created by the Legislature in 1974 and located in Sacramento, six basic responsibilities guide the Energy Commission as it sets state energy policy: forecasting future energy needs; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency and conservation by setting the state's appliance and building efficiency standards; supporting public interest energy research that advances energy science and technology through research, development, and demonstration programs; developing renewable energy resources and alternative renewable energy technologies for buildings, industry and transportation; planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies.

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