BrightSource’s Proposed Rio Mesa Solar Power Plant in California Passes State Test

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A 500-megawatt (MW) solar power plant that was proposed for southeast California by BrightSource Energy has now won a preliminary recommendation from the California Energy Commission’s staff.


The California Energy Commission has said in a recent news release 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 noted some issues that need to be resolved first, though. These concern “geology and paleontology, soil and surface water, traffic and transportation, transmission system engineering, water supply and visual resources.”

This preliminary report isn’t a final decision, though; that will still come at a later date.

Assuming that the project is approved, construction is expected to start in 2013 and be completed by 2016. At full capacity, the project could power at least 200,000 Californian homes.

According to the commission, BrightSource estimated that the project would employ on average 840 workers a month during the construction phase, peaking at 2,188, and ending up with 100 full-time employees after the project is completed.

“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,” Reuters notes.

“The solar receiver is located atop a 750-foot (230-meter) power tower near the center of each solar field.”

BrightSource is aiming to build Rio Mesa on Palo Verde Mesa in Riverside County. That’s around 13 miles SW of Blythe, California, which is located around 224 miles east of LA.

The proposed construction site is located on land that is leased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and covers over 3,805 acres.

“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,” Reuters adds.

“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.”

And in addition to all of this, BrightSource is also creating the 500-MW Hidden Hills solar power plant in SE California located around the Nevada state border. The company is expecting Hidden Hills to cost about $2.7 billion. It’s expected to start construction by 2013 and enter service by 2015.

Source: Reuters
Image Credit: BrightSource Energy

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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