BrightSource Energy applied for a modification to the Palen CSP project to use its solar power tower technolog.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has released its preliminary staff assessment (PSA) of the Palen Solar Electric Generating System project, a 500 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) project planned in Southern California.

The report expresses concerns in several areas, including biological resources, cultural resources and geology and paleontology, and finds that the project does not comply with state rules in the area of visual resources. In five areas CEC staff was unable to determine compliance.

The CEC seeks additional information from developer BrightSource Energy Inc. (Oakland, California, US) in a total of eight areas. The next regulatory step for the project is a Final Staff Assessment from the CEC.

The Palen concentrating solar power project had been approved by the CEC in 2010 as a parabolic trough CSP project, however BrightSource changed the design to a solar power tower design after acquiring the project. The project will feature two adjacent 250 MW solar power towers.

The Palen site is located 400 meters north of Interstate 10 in Riverside County, California, roughly halfway between the towns of Indio and Blythe. The project is located entirely on public land managed by the US Bureau of Land Management.

The PSA found that the project would impact 9 prehistoric sites and 40 historic archaeological sites, all of which were recommended or assumed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or the California Register of Historic Places. Other concerns identified in the staff assessment include impacts to a number of species, including the threatened desert tortoise.