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.