BLM and CEC Release Draft EIS for the 400-MW Ivanpah Solar Project

November 11, 2009

Photo of a large array of flat mirrors mounted on poles and angled toward the sun. The mirrors are mounted on flat ground and recede toward the horizon, where a tower stands with a glowing white top

The Ivanpah solar project will employ solar power tower technology, which employs a field of flat mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on a receiver, mounted at the top of a central tower. Enlarge this image.
Credit: BrightSource Energy

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the California Energy Commission (CEC) announced on November 5 that they have completed a joint draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project. The project, to be located on about 4,000 acres of federal land in Southern California's Ivanpah Valley, will draw on solar power tower technology to generate 400 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Solar power towers employ a field of flat mirrors, or heliostats, to focus the sun's heat on a central receiver mounted at the top of a tower. In the central receiver, water is boiled to steam, which is then used to drive a turbine to produce power.

Proposed by BrightSource Energy Inc., the Ivanpah project will be built in three phases, consisting of two 100-MW plants followed by one 200-MW plant. According to the CEC Web page for the project, each 100-MW plant will use three power towers to deliver steam to a central power plant, which will also have its own power tower. The 200-MW plant will have four power towers around a central plant. The entire project is proposed to be located on land managed by Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and it will provide power to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison. A BLM notice that the draft EIS is ready for public review was published in the Federal Register on November 10. The draft EIS also includes a Final Staff Assessment (FSA) by the CEC, which will lead to an evidentiary hearing by the CEC in mid-December. See the CEC press release, the BrightSource Energy Web site, the BLM's Federal Register notice, and the full FSA and draft EIS.

The Interior Department also announced that five other renewable energy projects in California are on a fast-track review schedule and are poised to begin environmental review. Four of these are solar projects and one is a wind farm, and all are located on BLM lands. The Daggett Ridge Wind Farm, located near Barstow, is an 82.5-MW project proposed by AES. The four solar projects will all employ solar troughs, long trough-shaped parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight on a receiving tube, which runs along the focal point of the mirrors. A fluid runs through the tube, gathering the heat and delivering it to a boiler, which drives a turbine to produce power. The projects include the 250-MW Genesis Solar Energy Project and three proposals from Solar Millenium LLC: the 484-MW Palen Solar Power Project, the 968-MW Blythe Solar Power Project, and the 250-MW Ridgecrest Solar Power Project. The first three projects are located in the Sonoran Desert in the vicinity of Blythe, which is about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, while the Ridgecrest project is located about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. The projects are on a fast track because they are advanced enough in the permitting process that they could potentially be cleared for approval by December 2010, thus making them eligible for economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. See the Interior Department press release.