New Storage Technology Proposed for Photovoltaic Project
March 27, 2016 - Blythe area CA - Sonoran West Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Recurrent Energy LLC, proposes to construct and operate the RE Crimson Solar Project, a utility‐scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and
energy storage project that would be located on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) within the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) planning area. This project will be directly next to the Desert Quartzite Solar Farm, also south of I-10.
See the draft 2016 Plan of Development.
The project would connect with Southern California Edison (SCE) at the 220 kilovolt (kV) Colorado River Substation. The project would be located on up to 4,000 acres of public lands. It would generate up to 450 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy using PV technology and would include up to 450 MW of integrated energy storage capacity.
The Project site was formerly proposed for development as the Sonoran West Solar Energy Generating
Station proposed by BrightSource Energy. The proposal is located in unincorporated eastern Riverside County, approximately 13 miles west of Blythe, just north of Mule Mountain and south of I‐10. The Project site is situated at the east edge of the Chuckwalla Hydrologic Area and supports a broad alluvial fan that includes many braided washes and channels that converge into a primary channel flowing into an intra‐state playa lake northwest of the Project site. It is within a Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) Development
Focus Area. Also, the project is within a Solar Energy Zone defined during the Solar Programmatic Environmental Statement review. It is also placed in one of several sand transport systems.
The site is located at the northern foot of the Mule Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which is an important cultural resource for local Native American Tribes.
^Ocotillo blooming in 2012, around the site of the Crimson Solar Project, with the Mule Mountains in the distance. This region would have to be mowed and partly graded to accommodate a solar field.
During the construction phase, it is anticipated that up to 1,000 acre‐feet would be used per year for
dust suppression (including truck wheel washing) and other purposes. Across a majority of the site, a "low‐impact" mow and roll technique would be used to remove surface desert vegetation and keep root balls in place. In some areas, grubbing and grading would be required to level particularly rough areas of the site and to prepare soils for concrete foundations for substation equipment and inverters. Access road beds would also be grubbed, graded, and compacted. The fenceline would be grubbed and graded to create a level surface for proper fence installation. A Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan would be prepared. Herbicides would then be used to suppress weeds (but also native wildflowers)
Photovoltaic Solar Field
Types of panels that may be installed include thin‐film panels (including cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium diselenide technologies), crystalline silicon panels, or any other commercially available PV technology.
Up to eight substations would be graded and compacted as well..
This is the first photovoltaic solar project we have seen that seeks to integrate storage into its design. Usually concentrated solar thermal projects are being pushed to adapt storage technologies to their solar fields, but with the increased penetration of renewable energy, the California Public Utilities Commission has prioritized storage, and so PV developers are beginning to experiment with these designs.
From the Plan of Development (draft): "Storage systems can assist grid operators in more effectively integrating intermittent renewable resources into the statewide grid and can assist utilities in their efforts to meet energy storage goals mandated by the CPUC. The Project could include, at the Applicants’ option, a battery or flywheel storage system capable of storing up to 450 MW of electricity. If provided, the storage system would consist of battery or flywheel banks housed in electrical enclosures and buried electrical conduit. The battery system would either be concentrated near the Project substations or dispersed throughout the
Solar Facility site. Up to 3,000 electrical enclosures measuring 40 feet by 8 feet by 8.5 feet high would be
installed on concrete foundations designed for secondary containment, representing up to 12 acres of
impervious surface area. The Project could use any commercially available battery technology, including
but not limited to lithium ion, lead acid, sodium sulfur and sodium or nickel hydride. Battery systems are
operationally silent, and flywheel systems have a noise rating of 45 dBA."
Rich Desert Ecosystems
The site is a diverse Colorado Desert area with a high diversity of species, for which new surveys will have to be carried out: desert tortoise, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, burrowing owl, desert kit fox, golden eagle, elf owl, and gila woodpecker. Ocotillos and microphyll woodland consisting of desert ironwood grow in the area.
^Mule Mountains ACEC from the east side.
Groundwater Use and Air Quality
Other projects in the region have had severe violations of air quality in the eastern Chuckwalla Valley, with winds whipping up dust storms on graded projects sites, as at Genesis Solar Energy Project to the north of the I-10 highway.
^We photographed this dust storm on the construction sire of the Genesis Solar Energy Project in 2012, where a dust suppression plan was not working. The photo is from the approximate site of the proposed Crimson Solar Project looking northward across the I-10.
^Regional map of the Blythe area showing the cumulative impacts to this desert of the multiple large-scale solar projects.
^Mule Mountains along the Bradshaw Trail along the south edge of the ACEC.
^Ocotillo leafing out near the Crimson Solar Project proposed site.