News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Your Chance to Weigh In on Large Desert Solar Project

BrightSource's Ivanpah Valley solar power tower project under construction | Photo: Don Barrett/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has set the date for a workshop at which members of the public can voice their views and concerns over BrightSource Energy's proposed Rio Mesa Solar Project near Blythe, California. The workshop will be held Wednesday, November 14 in Palm Desert.

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The workshop is CEC's way of giving the public a way to comment on the Commission's Preliminary Staff Assessment for the project, which is similar to an Environmental Impact review.

The RIo Mesa project would place about 170,000 mirrored heliostats on about 3,800 acres of alluvial plain on the west bank of the Colorado River. The heliostats would focus sunlight on two power towers, each of them 750 feet tall. Each tower would have a peak generating capacity of about 200 megawatts. The California Public Utilities Commission last month approved a power purchase agreement for one of the two units, Rio Mesa 2, but refused to greenlight a PPA for Unit 1 citing the high cost to consumers of the proposed agreement.

There are a number of issues with the project that may capture the public interest. The CEC's staff identified a number of impacts the proposed project would have on the landscape, including effects on groundwater, riparian, paleontological and cultural resources that the staff says may not be able to be remedied by BrightSource. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also expressed concern over the potential damage to birds in the area from the facility's concentrated sunlight.

The workshop will be held Wednesday, November 14 starting at 8:30 AM at the University of California at Riverside, Palm Desert Campus; 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, "B" Building, Rooms B114 - B117, in Palm Desert. The location is wheelchair accessible.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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