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BLM Releases Final Environmental Study for Proposed Ivanpah Solar Electric Generation System Project

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) proposed on public land in San Bernardino County, Calif.

BrightSource Energy of Oakland, Calif., applied for four right-of-way authorizations to construct solar power plants on approximately 4,000 acres of public land in California about 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nev. The project, if authorized, would be among the first commercial thermal solar power projects approved for construction on public lands in the United States.

The company’s proposed action, analyzed in the draft EIS issued earlier this year, includes a 400-megawatt solar plant that would provide enough electricity to power 320,000 homes. The plant would use solar "power tower" technology, involving the construction of seven 459-foot tall towers. The planned 214,000 heliostats consisting of two flat mirrors would be constructed in concentric circles around each tower to reflect the sun’s rays on a central receiver. Water in each tower would be heated to pressurized steam, driving a steam turbine generator to produce electricity. The electricity would be transmitted via tie lines to a new substation and into the transmission lines running through the proposed project.

The agency preferred alternative in the FEIS has a smaller acreage footprint than the original proposal, and reduces impacts identified in the Draft EIS issued in November 2009. Its footprint would be 3,564 acres, a 12 percent reduction. The preferred alternative would reduce the number and modify the arrangement of heliostats and power towers, thus requiring less overall acreage for the project. The capacity would be reduced from 400 MW to 370 MW (173,500 heliostats). It would revise arrangement of facilities to reduce impacts to resources in the area, including special-status plants, desert tortoises, visual resources, and soil and water resources.

The project applicant has also submitted an Application for Certification with the California Energy Commission (CEC). The BLM is working closely with the CEC and other state and federal agencies in an unprecedented collaborative effort to better coordinate the renewable energy permitting process.

A Notice of Availability was published by the Environmental Protection Agency in the August 6, 2010, Federal Register. This notice initiates a 30-day protest period for the proposed amendment to the California Desert Plan, a necessary step before the project could be approved. Details on filing a protest can be found in the Federal Register Notice or in the Final EIS, available online at http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/needles/nefo_nepa.html.

In addition to the protest period, the BLM will be accepting public comment on the Final EIS for 30 days. Comments can be sent to George Meckfessel, Planning and Environmental Coordinator, Needles Field Office, 1303 South Highway 95, Needles, CA 92363, or email caisegs@blm.gov.

Further details can be found at the BLM renewable energy web page: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/prog/energy/fasttrack/ivanpahsolar.html and the CEC web page http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/index.html or by contacting Tom Hurshman, BLM project manager, (970) 240-5345, or email caisegs@blm.gov.
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