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709MW solar dish plant nears approval in California

03/09/2010

Plans for a 709 megawatt solar power facility in California’s Imperial Valley are moving toward approval by the California Energy Commission. The Imperial Valley Solar Project, formerly known as the SES Solar Two Project, is being developed by Arizona firm Stirling Energy Systems on public land 14 miles west of El Centro.

The proposal is for 28,000 solar dishes, called “SunCatchers”, which would each generate 25 kilowatts of power.

Stirling Energy’s SunCatchers collect solar heat, which drives a Stirling engine to generate electricity.

The project was to have been up to 750MW in size, but the California Energy Commission’s siting committee issued a proposed decision last week that would adopt the 709MW alternative project, as preferred by the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the land on which the project is proposed.

Major Impacts of the Project

The committee said even with the mitigation measures proposed, the Imperial Solar Project would still have “significant” environmental impacts – visually as well as on wildlife and the cultural landscape.

The project would even be inconsistent with the Imperial Valley General Plan’s land use provision, the committee suggested.

Nevertheless, it said the benefits of the project would override the impacts.

The committee’s proposed decision is now open to public comment for the next four weeks, before the full five-member Commission makes a final decision.

Over the past month, the Energy Commission has issued proposed decisions recommending the approval of more than 2,800 megawatts of solar power, including the Imperial Valley Solar Project.

The other projects that are recommended to be considered for a license to construct are the 250 MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project; the 250 MW Beacon Solar Energy Project; the 1,000 MW Blythe Solar Power Project; the 250 MW Genesis Solar Energy Project; and the 370 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project.

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