California agency raises issues over proposed solar project

Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:19pm EST

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(Reuters) - California Energy Commission staff on Friday said BrightSource Energy's proposed 500-megawatt Hidden Hills solar thermal power project would have "significant" impact on the environment.

In a statement on the final staff assessment, the state's primary energy planning and policy agency cited impacts on "biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources" even if recommended mitigation measures are implemented.

BrightSource said the company is looking forward to the formal evidentiary hearings upon which the Commission will base its final decision.

"Unmitigated environmental impacts and non-compliance with applicable laws and regulations would require the Commission to adopt override findings if the project is approved," the CEC said in a statement.

The proposed project would consist of two 250-MW solar plants, each having about 85,000 heliostats - elevated mirrors used to focus the sun's rays on a solar receiver. It would be located on 3,277 acres of private land leased in Inyo County next to the Nevada border.

The construction of the $2.2 billion project, if approved, would take about 29 months with work scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2013 and end in the fourth quarter of 2015.

BrightSource's first major project, the $2.2 billion Ivanpah plant in California, is nearly complete. The 377-megawatt plant is backed by a $1.6 billion government loan guarantee and is expected to enter service in 2013.

California has a goal to produce 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Koustav Samanta in Bangalore; editing by Jim Marshall)

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