Project Management for Performing Environmental and Engineering Assessments of Proposed New Power Plants in California
As a consultant to the California Energy Commission (CEC), Mr. Kessler has served as a Project Manager for leading a team of technical specialists in preparing engineering and environmental analyses in over 23 disciplines. The CEC conducts a CEQA-equivalent process for analyzing its projects, and through the course of managing all technical disciplines, Mr. Kessler understands the standard methods for analysis, the breadth of potential impacts to resources, and the range of opportunities to mitigate impacts to less than significant. With respect to combined NEPA and CEQA environmental assessments, Mr. Kessler has contributed to establishing a document template achieving the goals of both federal and state lead agencies, and to developing innovative mitigation measures to address unique resource impacts. The projects include:
• Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System – The project is a 400 MW solar thermal development that is located in eastern San Bernardino County on federal lands managed by BLM. The project was licensed by the Energy Commission and granted rights of way from BLM for use of public lands, and began construction in October 2010. Ivanpah was the first joint Energy Commission and BLM environmental assessment posing significant procedural challenges to consolidate the NEPA and CEQA processes which was done successfully under Mr. Kessler’s coordination. Ivanpah was also the first of the large solar projects in the California desert which initiated addressing unique wildlife habitat issues which are subject to Endangered Species Act standards of state vs. federal wildlife agencies and their processes for finding mitigation to be acceptable. The project also causes visual effects that cannot be mitigated and required extensive study of the potential glare effects from the solar receiver towers and heliostats and their effect on human and animal life. The project also posed challenging soil stability issues as the project is situated in an alluvial fan subject to flash flooding and has numerous ephemeral drainage channels subject to scouring, sedimentation and meandering over the life of the project. These issues were resolved under the guidance of Mr. Kessler along with a contingent of resource experts serving on his project team, and agency partners at BLM, USFWS and CDFG, by encouraging the applicant to acknowledge the significant impacts of the project and by supporting the applicant in development of mitigation measures.
• Rice Solar Energy Project – The project is a proposed 150 MW solar thermal development that is located in eastern San Bernardino County on primarily private land with the generation tie line located on federal lands managed by BLM. The project would include an interconnection to Western Area Power Administration’s Parker-Blythe #2 transmission line and associated new substation. Mr. Kessler was instrumental in facilitating preparation of the joint Staff Assessment/Draft EIS to satisfy both NEPA and CEQA requirements to meet the objectives of Western, BLM and CEC. Like Ivanpah, the Rice project has significant visual effects that cannot be mitigated associated with the concentrated solar power technology that relies on heliostats reflecting the sun’s energy onto a central tower receiver. The Rice project required close coordination with Western’s Desert Southwest Region office to assess potential transmission impacts via the System Impact Study, to Western’s transmission system and to downstream facilities owned and operated by Southern California Edison and Imperial Irrigation District.
• Humboldt Bay Repowering Project – The project is a 163-MW facility to replace aging generating units of the existing Humboldt Bay Power Plant. This project posed a potential for significant public health and biological effects, and required extensive air quality study in coordination with North Coast Air Quality Mangement District, California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA to evaluate emissions from a new generating technology using dual-fuel compression engines using both natural gas and diesel. The issues were mitigated in close coordination with PG&E as the applicant, and PG&E successfully received its license in Sepember 2008. Mr. Kessler was able to guide his project team to settle all outstanding issues with the applicant prior to hearings. The project is under construction and is nearly complete.
• Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project – The project is a 563 MW hybrid facility integrating solar thermal and combined cycle generation technologies in the Mojave Desert; The project posed unique water supply issues associated with this region of the state which is primarily dependent on imported water supplies and influenced by potential effects to the groundwater basin which continues to be in overdraft. The project successfully received its license in July 2008. Mr. Kessler was able to guide his project team to settle all outstanding issues prior to hearings.
• Sentinel Energy Project – The project is a proposed 850-MW natural gas-fired peaking plant, and also poses significant water issues in an arid location of the state that is experiencing declining groundwater and limitations in imported water supplies. The project is pending the CEC’s Final Decision which is expected in December 2010, and if approved is expected to become operational by 2013. The project also presented challenges related to the applicant’s ability to secure appropriate emission reduction credits, which have been demonstrated to be acceptable to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Mr. Kessler was able to guide his project team to settle all outstanding issues prior to hearings. The most significant of these included gaining commitment by the applicant to implement a host of water conservation measures that will offset its fresh water use.