Monday, June 13, 2011

Large Solar Energy Projects

By the California Energy Commission.

California's electric utility companies are required to using renewable energy to produce 20 percent of their power by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. A main source of renewable power will be solar energy.

Many large solar energy projects are being proposed in California's desert area on federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. BLM has received right-of-way requests encompassing more than 300,000 acres for the development of approximately 34 large solar thermal power plants totaling approximately 24,000 megawatts. This number of projects have not yet reached the stage of an Application for Certification (AFC) with the California Energy Commission.

Solar thermal projects (above 50 MW) will require approvals from both the BLM and the Energy Commission prior to construction. Therefore, to provide joint National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and a more efficient process, the BLM and Energy Commission have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU also has attachments listing the solar projects the BLM is aware of (as of July 2007) and the time line for the joint review process.

This Web section will provide information about projects that have filed applications under the Energy Commission's jurisdiction (thermal power plant projects 50 MW or larger).

Download "at a glance" map of Large Solar Projects.
Download map of BLM Solar Energy Project Applications.
Solar Projects in the News

California's Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) was established by Senate Bill 1078 (Sher, Chapter 516, Statutes of 2002). It required the state's retail sellers of electricity - investor-owned utilities (IOUs), electric service providers (ESPs), and community choice aggregators (CCAs) - to procure 20 percent of their retail electricity sales with eligible sources of renewable energy by 2017. California's energy agencies subsequently committed to achieving the 20 percent target by 2010; seven years earlier than the target.

This 20 percent target was codified by the enactment of Senate Bill 107 (Simitian and Perata, Chapter 464, Statutes of 2006), which took effect on January 1, 2007. A higher, more ambitious goal was initially set, by the Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission in the Energy Action Plan, at 33 percent renewables by 2017, but Governor Schwarzenegger's Executive Order of November 2008 set the goal at 33 percent by 2020. For information on regulations for meeting the 33 percent renewable energy target, see the ARB's Renewable Electricity Standard page.

In creating the RPS, the Legislature underscored the importance of increasing the diversity, reliability, public health, and environmental benefits of the energy mix.

For more about the Renewables Portfolio Standard, please go to the Energy Commission's website page at:

Earlier Large, Solar Projects Producing Power
Prior to the Renewable Portfolio Standards in 2002, 13 solar thermal power projects were planned in California, with 11 of those filing applications with the Energy Commission. Nine projects (Solar Energy Generating Station - SEGS I to IX), totaling 354 MW, were built. SEGS III to IX are owned by NextEra™ Energy Resources (formerly FPL Energy), and SEGS I and II are owned by Cogentrix Solar Services - a wholly owned subsidiary of Cogentrix Energy LLC (Charlotte, NC), which purchased former owner Sunray Energy Inc. in early 2009.

One large photovoltaic (PV) array was built by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District near its Rancho Seco Nuclear Plant. It went on line in August 1984 and has an installed capacity of 3.19 MW.

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