SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)–Six California renewable energy facilities proposed by AES Corp. (AES), FPL Group Inc. (FPL), BrightSource Energy Inc. and Germany's Solar Millennium (S2M.XE) are being fast-tracked for government permits needed to start construction, a federal official said Thursday.
Together, the renewable power plants would generate nearly 2,500 megawatts of electricity, and occupy more than 28,000 acres of land, said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. That's enough to serve as many as 2 million homes. The five solar plants and one wind farm would be built on public land controlled by Interior's Bureau of Land Management, which is working with the California Energy Commission to push through the companies' permit applications.
Salazar's announcement came as welcome news to renewable energy developers and utilities who have been frustrated by lengthy environmental reviews for their projects. To be eligible for federal stimulus funds renewable energy developers must begin construction by December 2010.
After a two-year wait, federal and state agency staffs issued a draft environmental impact statement Wednesday for BrightSource's planned 440-megawatt Ivanpah solar-thermal power plant in San Bernardino County, Calif. The report concluded that the project, which would serve utilities owned by PG&E Corp. (PCG) and Edison International (EIX), could proceed without harming federally and state protected plants and wildlife under certain conditions, including setting aside thousands of acres of land where desert tortoises and other protected wildlife would be relocated from the project site.
Draft environmental reviews for the other projects will be issued soon, Salazar said.
Solar Millennium has agreed to provide Edison's southern California utility with up to 726 megawatts of solar power from three 242-megawatt plants. The company has asked the BLM and CEC for permission to build three solar facilities that together would generate 1,700 megawatts of electricity.
FPL unit Genesis Solar LLC applied for a government permit to build a 250-megawatt solar thermal power plant near Blythe, Calif.
AES has proposed building an 82-megawatt wind farm in Barstow, Calif. In 2007 Southern California Edison signed a contract with AES for the output from that facility, but canceled that contract last year.
Pending regulations require California utilities to use renewable sources for a third of the power they sell by 2020. The requirement is part of the state's 2006 plan to combat climate change.