BrightSource Splits Utility-Scale Solar Site With Giant Housing Developer

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[social_buttons]It is easy enough for solar companies to sign contracts under new RPS laws requiring utilities to buy more and more renewable energy. But building any new power sites or transmission is fraught with difficulties, even when these are for a societal good like renewable energy.

But BrightSource has been creative in finding sites for its utility-scale solar thermal plants. Here’s a new example.

They have just made a deal with Nevada housing developer Coyote Springs Land Company to site a 960 MW solar thermal plant on 12 square miles of a 43,000 acre housing development planned before the economic real estate apocalypse. Some solar was part of Coyote’s original plan for its golfing community 50 miles north of Las Vegas, but not 12 square miles of it!

Now with housing in free-fall, the expertize of housing developers comes in handy to help us meet the need for more renewable energy. Solar power developers could piggyback on the experience of housing developers with the know-how to get through red tape.

This could be how renewable power overcomes siting hurdles – and how the construction industry digs its way out of a deep recession. A marriage made in heaven.

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Indeed, Coyote says it has been in talks with additional solar companies and is considering sectioning off even more of its planned housing development for solar. Transmission line access at Coyote Springs has been secured.

While BrightSource’s solar thermal technology requires relatively little water, it does need some, and the development already has ensured enough water rights to handle additional solar. Combining both uses, for energy and recreation works well as reclaimed water can be recirculated from the golf course to the solar arrays.

It makes sense to develop more land for the necessity of renewable energy, and to reduce the land allocated to a luxury. Golf courses are expendable.

BrightSource has agreements with Southern California Edison totaling 1,300 megawatts, and a 1,310 megawatt series of agreements with PG&E to meet Renewable Portfolio Standards in California.

A previous site that has become problematic for BrightSource was its Broadwell Dry Lake area in California. The 500 MW solar thermal plant site is apparently being eyed for a national monument. Last week BrightSource gave up on that site. But the company has signed contracts with PG&E for power so the company is looking at less pristine spots – that are already marked by development.

The shared site with the developer is one way around the problem.

Another way is to look for already developed land. BrightSource is partnering with engineering, procurement and construction contractor giant Bechtel to build a 400 MW solar thermal site at Ivanpah. This is near a casino area in Nevada, and already has two major transmission lines, a natural gas pipeline; and is right next to a natural gas electric power plant.

Both off-road bikers and cattle farming have already thoroughly trampled the environment, so there is unlikely to be any conservationist uproar there.

However, it would be a shame if solar was relegated to desert areas where there is no ground cover to hold the dust down. The dust that desert cattle farming causes is a problem for solar efficiency, requiring more frequent rinses to keep panels clean. Water is already scarce, and never going to be freely available in the West and Southwest as our climate keeps warming.

Related stories:

California Adds 8,600 MW of New Renewable Energy; Meets RPS Goals

US Must Socialize Grid to Add More Renewable Energy

Image: BrightSource

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