Regulators clear nearly 1,000 megawatts of solar for California deserts


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Two more major solar projects moved ahead in the permitting process Wednesday after the California Energy Commission cleared the way to construction.

The 250-megawatt Genesis Solar Energy Project and the 709-megawatt Imperial Valley Solar Project were unanimously approved to start building in the California desert. They join a hefty roster of proposals that have snaked through the commission in recent weeks and which hope to break ground before the end of the year to qualify for federal stimulus funding.


Most proposals, however, will be situated on public land and are still waiting for the federal Bureau of Land Management to finish its own approval process next month.

Since late August, the energy commission has cleared nearly 3,000 megawatts of solar. California is attempting to meet a goal for utilities to draw 20% of its power from renewable energy by the end of this year and 33% by 2020.

The Genesis project will be implemented by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources and will involve two separate facilities using parabolic trough technology. Curved mirrors will collect the sun’s rays, heating fluid that will produce steam to run generators.

The installation will be set up about 25 miles west of Blythe in Riverside County, where Chevron Energy Solutions and Solar Millennium plan to soon start building a similar 968-megawatt plant. The plant will sprawl over 1,800 acres in an undeveloped area of the Sonoran desert.

Tessera Solar’s Imperial Valley two-part plans will involve solar dishes -- or “SunCatchers” -- across thousands of acres in a region bordering Arizona and Mexico.

The pair of projects will result in nearly 2,000 construction jobs, with more than 200 permanent operational jobs.


Like some other proposed solar projects, the Imperial Valley effort has run up against environmentalists trying to protect the flat-tailed horned lizard and the endangered desert tortoise, whose habitats intersect with the proposed site.

Tessera has agreed to avoid installation on dry creek beds, which play a role in flood control, whittling down the planned energy output from an originally-intended 750 megawatts.

-- Tiffany Hsu


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