* Solar plant would serve SCE customers from 2016
* 500-MW project to cost about $2 billion
* Project to create more than 2,000 construction jobs
Oct 1 Private solar power company BrightSource
Energy's proposed 500-megawatt (MW) Rio Mesa solar power plant
in southeast California has won a preliminary recommendation
from the staff of the state's energy regulator.
The California Energy Commission said in a release late on
Friday that its staff had found the solar project, estimated to
cost $2 billion, would comply with all applicable laws,
ordinances, regulation and standards and the environmental
impacts would be less than significant.
The staff, however, said some issues still needed to be
resolved, including geology and paleontology, soil and surface
water, traffic and transportation, transmission system
engineering, water supply and visual resources.
The staff's preliminary report is not a final decision,
which the commission said would come later.
If the project is approved, BrightSource said on its website
it hopes to start construction in 2013 with completion in 2016.
The project would power about 200,000 homes.
The company has agreed to sell power from Rio Mesa to
Southern California Edison (SCE), a unit of California power
company Edison International.
BrightSource told the commission the project would average
840 workers a month during construction, with a maximum of 2,188
at the peak, with up to 100 full-time employees needed when the
project is operating.
The proposed Rio Mesa project consists of two 250-MW solar
plants, producing steam to generate electricity. Each plant
would have about 85,000 heliostats - elevated mirrors used to
focus the sun's rays on a solar receiver.
The solar receiver is located atop a 750-foot (230-meter)
power tower near the center of each solar field.
BrightSource wants to build Rio Mesa on Palo Verde Mesa in
Riverside County, about 13 miles (21 km) southwest of Blythe,
California, which is 224 miles east of Los Angeles.
The proposed 3,805-acre (1,540-hectare) site would be
located on land leased from the Metropolitan Water District of
BrightSource originally asked the commission in October 2011
for permission to build a 750-MW project on about 5,750 acres.
But in July 2012, the company amended its application to remove
the 250-MW plant that would have been on Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) land due in part to concerns raised by the BLM.
Separately, BrightSource started building the 370-MW Ivanpah
solar power plant in California's Mojave Desert in October 2010
and will sell the power to PG&E Corp and Southern
California Edison. The company expects Ivanpah to cost about
$2.2 billion and enter service in 2013.
In addition, BrightSource is developing the 500-MW Hidden
Hills solar power plant in southeast California near the Nevada
border and will sell power to PG&E. The company expects Hidden
Hills to cost about $2.7 billion and start construction in 2013
with the plant entering service in 2015.