Calif. governor fast-tracks reviews on world's largest solar project

Posted: Feb 27, 2013

Written by

ANNE C. MULKERN, Greenwire
Solar array

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) yesterday cleared some environmental hurdles of a solar project that will be the world's biggest.

Brown declared the $1 billion McCoy Solar Project worthy of fast-track approval because it would create jobs, generate clean energy and help the state build needed infrastructure. Those characteristics make it eligible for expedited environmental review under A.B. 900, state legislation enacted in 2011.

A.B. 900 allows judicial streamlining for infrastructure projects worth $100 million or more that the governor certifies. While it will still go through the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, any lawsuits filed under that protection law will go straight to the Court of Appeal.

"The McCoy Solar Project will generate approximately 341 well-paid construction, supervisory, support and management jobs over the project's 46-month construction, and additional operational jobs once completed," Brown's office said in a statement.

The McCoy Solar Project earlier this month was included on a list of 23 developments that the Department of the Interior said it wanted to fast-track. They were selected because the Bureau of Land Management said they were far enough along in the planning and permitting process to likely receive authorization before the end of 2014 (Greenwire, Feb. 6).

BLM has completed details of the environmental impact statement for McCoy and is expected to issue final approval as early as next month.

Environmental groups have said that they have concerns about CEQA streamlining. Brown's move comes just a few days after state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) introduced placeholder legislation with tenets for changes to the landmark environmental protection law.

McCoy Solar LLC -- a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC -- will invest a minimum of $100 million in the state during construction, Brown's office said. The project is located in Riverside County, 13 miles northwest of the city of Blythe.

The California Air Resources Board has certified that the project will not generate any net additional greenhouse gas emissions during construction, Brown's statement said.

The project is expected to generate 750 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 264,000 residences. It will be sited on 4,315 acres of federal land and 477 acres of private land and will include a 15.5-mile-long transmission line right of way.

In January 2012, Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed an agreement aimed at creating more renewable power projects in California.

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