World's largest solar thermal project moves closer to reality

The world's largest solar thermal power plant is one step closer to coming to California's Mojave Desert after winning approval from the state's energy commissioner.

The world's largest solar thermal power plant is one step closer to coming to California's Mojave Desert after receiving a stamp of approval from the state's energy commissioner.

California Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Bryon this month issued a 576-page report recommending that the project be approved. It will be subject to 30 days of public comment before appearing before a five-member commission for final approval.

Construction is slated to begin in the fall.

Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource Energy is behind the proposed project, which consists of three solar thermal plants that would total 392 megawatts of capacity. BrightSource is funded by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Google.org and VantagePoint Venture Partners, whom SmartPlanet interviewed in July .

It will be built on more than 3,500 acres of federally-owned land. Power generated from the plants will be sold to PG&E and Southern California Edison.

The project hasn't been without its critics, however.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

Much of the debate over the ISEGS project was over the significant adverse impacts to biological resources of the Ivanpah Valley, specifically the federally-listed threatened species, desert tortoise and eight special-status plants found on the project site. There was general agreement by wildlife, botanical, and ecology experts that testified at the evidentiary hearings that there is a combination of both natural and manmade processes that are affecting the global climate; and that these special-status species are not immune to the effects of climate change, but it is possible that they could adapt and survive if given enough time. There was also general agreement that the exact impacts of climate change to the biological resources in the Ivanpah Valley are unknown – various models predict varying temperature changes and precipitation amounts for California’s desert region – resulting in potential detriment or benefit to biological resources, depending on the habitat needs of the species. It is the intent of this Commission to take all reasonable measures to preserve the continued existence of the desert special-status species. This Commission believes that this project, and other renewable energy projects, will result in the reduction of greenhouse gases which will help curb or reduce the impact of climate change to California, thereby allowing for the continued existence of the desert special-status species.

Therefore, this decision overrides the remaining significant unavoidable impacts that may result from this project, even with the implementation of the required mitigation measures described in this decision.

The full report is embedded below.

Ivanpah Solar approval

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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