CEC Application for Certification for Solar Facilities
The CEC has the statutory authority for licensing all thermal energy projects larger than 50 MW. Solar developers must submit an Application For Certification (AFC) from the CEC, which will issue a separate decision from the BLM. The CEC’s AFC process is certified under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and is equivalent to CEQA’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. This allows for replacement of the EIRs that would normally be completed by the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) with the CEC’s staff assessments and committee reports. As stated in the statute, an AFC process must be completed within 12 months of the project being deemed data adequate; however, currently the CEC is completing applications, on average, in 17 months.1
Steps for the CEC AFC Solar Facility Siting Process2(CEC Flowchart):
1. Applicant submits 125 copies of their AFC application to the CEC’s Docket Unit. Required information includes a project, site, engineering, and environmental description, related transmission information, and proof of compliance with federal, state, and local laws.
2. CEC staff reviews the AFC for data adequacy. Data adequacy is determined by the inclusion of all required siting information. Relevant agencies participate in this review process. CEC staff makes a data adequacy recommendation to the Commission within 30 days of the AFC being filed.
3. CEC issues decision on AFC data adequacy at a public meeting within 45 days of the AFC being filed.
a. If there are deficiencies, the applicant must submit a supplement with the changes.
b. If deemed data adequate, an Energy Commission Committee is formed, which contains
two Energy Commissioners, to preside over the process.
4. When the Commission deems the AFC to be data adequate, CEC staff begins to collect data for
impact analysis from the applicant and other agencies.
a. The CEC holds informational public hearings and workshops.
b. The CalISO files findings on System Impact Study (SIS). This is an evaluation of the
impact of the transmission connection with the grid.3
c. State and federal agencies issue draft permits or opinions.
5. The CEC completes a Staff Assessment for the project.
a. The CEC publishes a Preliminary Staff Assessment for the project.
b. A 20 day period of public workshops is held for the Preliminary Staff Assessment.
c. The CEC publishes a Final Staff Assessment.
6. CEC staff, applicant, and related agencies present findings to the Energy Commission Committee.
7. The Energy Commission Committee releases the Presiding Members Proposed Decision (PMPD) for a 30 day public comment period.
8. The Energy Commission Committee issues a Final Presiding Members Proposed Decision.
1 California Energy Commission Staff Member 1, Personal Communication, October 29, 2009.
2 California Energy Commission, Energy Facility Licensing Process: Developer’s Guide of Practices and Procedures, 2000.
3 California Independent System Operator, Centralized Generator Interconnection Study Process, http://www.caiso.com/1841/18419740650d0.pdf.