Jan 15 (Reuters) - California energy regulators said on Wednesday they approved NextEra Energy Inc's plan to use a different technology at its proposed $1.13 billion Blythe solar power plant, moving the 485-megawatt project a step closer to construction.
In a 5-0 vote, the Energy Commission agreed to allow NextEra to switch to solar photovoltaic technology from the previously approved solar parabolic-trough system.
"The project will spur California's transition to renewable energy and help advance its aggressive climate change goals," Commissioner Karen Douglas, the presiding member of the committee reviewing the Blythe project, said in a statement.
NextEra spokesman Steve Stengel said in an email the company is still seeking approvals for the project from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and is still looking for a company to buy the power from the proposed project.
NextEra wants to build the project on federal public land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.
In December, the committee reviewing Blythe found the project may have "environmental impacts that are cumulatively significant when considered along with the impacts of other projects in the region."
But the committee found the project's expected benefits - including a contribution to meeting California's Renewables Portfolio Standard, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the creation of nearly 500 peak construction jobs, and a boost to the economy -- justify an override of those environmental impacts.
In September 2010, the Energy Commission approved the 1,000-MW Blythe solar project for a site located about eight miles (13 km) west of Blythe in eastern Riverside County on 7,043 acres (2,850 hectares) of federal public land.
One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes.
Solar Millennium, which went bankrupt at the end of 2011, filed an amendment with the commission in June 2012 to switch the project to solar photovoltaic technology.
In April 2013, the project owner, NextEra, filed a revised amendment to reduce the project's physical size and generation capacity.
NextEra's amended 485-MW project would be developed on 4,070 acres of land in four phases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourth generating 110 MW.
Construction on the project is expected to last 48 months. There would be an average of 341 employees during construction, with a peak of 499. It will take about 15 employees to operate the plant once it enters service.