California OKs $1.1bn Blythe PV

California regulators have approved plans for the 485MW Blythe project to switch to PV from the concentrating solar power (CSP) deployment originally proposed at the site.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) voted unanimously for the switch, which was requested by US renewables  giant NextEra.

NextEra acquired the rights to Blythe in 2012 following the collapse of its original developer, a unit of the bankrupt CSP specialist Solar Millennium, which had planned an epic 1GW parabolic-trough installation.

The CEC said NextEra expects the plant to incur construction costs of $1.13bn.

Construction is expected to last 48 months. The developer expects an average of 341 employees during construction, peaking at 499.

The CEC committee said that although the Blythe project would have environmental impacts,  its benefits to California’s clean-energy ambitions and the local economy outweigh them.

The CEC is currently considering the fate of another of the former Solar Millennium projects in California – the 500MW Palen plant.

Unlike Blythe, Palen is planned to remain as a CSP plant by current owner BrightSource Energy, which wants to deploy its power-tower technology there.

But the project received a setback in December when the CEC issued a preliminary rejection of Palen due to its potential impact on wildlife.

There has still been no final vote on Palen.