Envirotech News
NextEra Energy moves forward with solar projects
October 17, 2013
NextEra Energy is moving forward with two large-scale solar projects east of the Coachella Valley, its 750-megawatt McCoy project and the 485-megawatt Blythe project, both near the city of Blythe. The company has inked an agreement with Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar to build the first 250 megawatts of McCoy, according to a Wednesday announcement from First Solar. The project will use First Solar’s thin-film photovoltaic panels and create about 400 jobs, company officials said. It is scheduled to go online late in 2016, with the power sold to Southern California Edison. Florida-based NextEra has no other contracts for the plant and has said previously it would build the project in stages, if and when it secures additional utility contracts. First Solar has also been the builder and panel provider for the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight project now under construction near the small town of Desert Center, about 50 miles east of Indio. First Solar developed that project but sold it to NextEra in partnership with GE Energy Financial Services and Sumitomo Corp. of America. The Blythe project, which NextEra bought from bankrupt Solar Trust of America, moved closer to final state approval with the California Energy Commission’s recent release of the second part of its staff assessment on the plant. The second section of the staff assessment — the commission’s term for an environmental impact report — covers the plant’s potential impact on biological and cultural resources, land use and visual resources. Public comments on the second section will be accepted through Nov. 11, commission officials said. A public meeting on the report is planned for November, but the date and location have yet to be announced. The first section of the report — covering a range of project impacts, including air quality, public health and soil and water — was released Sept. 23; the deadline for comments is Oct. 23, commission officials said. “Our Blythe project substantially reduces the impacts as compared to the Solar Trust project previously permitted by the CEC,” said Steven Stengel, a NextEra spokesman. The project is also being repermitted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which suspended renewable energy permitting during the federal shutdown. Tribal groups have raised concerns about the project’s impact on their nearby sacred sites. NextEra is also building the 250-megawatt Genesis project, a solar thermal plant about 25 miles west of Blythe. The first 125 megawatts of the project are scheduled to go online in November, company officials said. The first units at Desert Sunlight are expected to come online by the end of year.

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