August 20, 2010 / 2:39 PM / 7 years ago

California should approve NextEra Genesis solar plant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The California Energy Commission sitting committee on Thursday recommended approval for NextEra Energy Inc’s planned 250-megawatt Genesis solar thermal power project in Riverside County.

Even though the committee found Genesis will “have significant impacts on the environment,” it still recommended the project because, “The benefits … override those impacts.”

Over the past month, the Energy Commission said it has issued proposed decisions recommending approval for more than 2,100 megawatts of solar power, including Genesis.

The other projects include the 250-MW Abengoa Mojave, the 250-MW Beacon, the 1,000-MW Blythe and the 370-MW Ivanpah.

The committee recommendation is not a final decision on the project. The committee said it released the recommendation for 30 days of public comment and will consider input before bringing the proposed decision to the Commission.

If approved, the Commission said NextEra could start construction in the fourth quarter of 2010 with commercial service by the second quarter of 2013.

Genesis will have two 125-MW solar units that produce electricity using steam turbine generators fed from solar steam generators. The solar steam generators would receive heated transfer fluid from solar thermal equipment from arrays of parabolic mirrors that collect energy from the sun.

NextEra would build Genesis on about 1,800 acres of land managed by the federal U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Sonoran Desert west of Blythe about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, the Commission said.

SOLAR DOES NOT COME CHEAP

NextEra, which hopes to receive some federal funding and tax incentives to help cover the cost of Genesis, has not disclosed the estimated cost of the project.

Other solar thermal projects in California however would cost about $4,000 per kilowatt or $1 billion for a facility the size of Genesis.

That compares with about $125 million to build a similar sized simple cycle, natural gas fired power plant.

But Genesis, which will power more than 80,000 homes, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 330,000 tons per year when compared to a natural gas plant.

Once Genesis is fully operational, PG&E Corp’s Pacific Gas and Electric will buy the power from the plant under a long-term contract.

The Commission said its support for renewable energy projects is part of federal and state efforts to “enhance the nation’s energy independence, meet environmental goals, and create new economic growth opportunities.”

The construction of Genesis will employ more than 1,000 workers and infuse $165 million into the local economy, NextEra said in a release in July.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Lisa Shumaker

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