California finds issues with NextEra's planned solar plant


Oct 15 (Reuters) - The staff at the California EnergyCommission found some environmental issues with U.S. powercompany NextEra Energy Inc's proposed 485-megawattBlythe solar power plant near California, the commission said ina release on Tuesday.

The staff report is not the state's final decision on the$1.13 billion solar photovoltaic project, but serves as itstestimony in the commission's decision-making process.

The staff released its assessment in two parts.

In the first, released in late September, the staff said theenvironmental impact of the project "would be less thansignificant" with the implementation of recommended mitigationmeasures.

But in the second part, released last week, the staff saidthe project would have "significant cumulative environmentalimpacts in the areas of biological resources, culturalresources, land use, and visual resources even with theimplementation of staff's recommended mitigation measures."

Officials at NextEra were not immediately available forcomment.

Power traders have noted a negative staff report does notkill a project. The commission does not always follow the staffassessments and developers often make changes in response to therecommendations.

In September 2010, the commission approved the 1,000-MWBlythe solar power project using solar thermal parabolic troughtechnology. The project is located near Blythe in easternRiverside County about 225 miles (362 kms) east of Los Angeles.

The solar thermal plant would be located on 7,043 acres offederal land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Solar Millennium, the project's original owner, which wentbankrupt in 2011, filed an amendment in June 2012 with thecommission requesting to switch the technology to solarphotovoltaic.

In April 2013, a unit of NextEra, the new project owner,filed a revised amendment with the Commission to reduce theproject's physical size and the generation capacity.

NextEra wants to build the current 485-MW project in fourphases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourthgenerating 110 MW.

In addition, to approval from the state commission, theamended project requires a revised right-of-way grant from theU.S. Bureau of Land Management.

If the project is approved, NextEra has told the commissionconstruction would last 48 months with an average workforce of341 workers during construction and 15 once the plant entersservice.

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