Another CSP plant bites the dust (well, it’s indefinitely shelved). This could mark a major blow to projections for US solar power installations if it never gets back on track (or is delayed for a long time), but anyone who follows this space should know that concentrated solar power (CSP) plants are greatly threatened these days — solar PV is simply much, much cheaper.
However, that’s not technically the case here, according to initial reports.
US-based BrightSource Energy already shelved one major CSP plant this year — the $2 billion, 500 MW Rio Mesa 2 project near Blythe, California. In that case, Edison International “mutually terminated” a power purchase agreement with BrightSource. In the more recent case, BrightSource and PG&E also “mutually terminated” a power purchase agreement for the $2.7 (or $2.9 billion — depends who you quote), 500 MW Hidden Hills solar power project, citing uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades in the area.
In both instances, the 500 MW solar power plants were actually composed of two 250 MW CSP projects.
On the same day that the Hidden Hills power purchase agreement was terminated, BrightSource filed a request with regulators to pause the permitting process “until further notice.”
The electricity generated from the Hidden Hills project was expected to serve “more than 178,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.” About 2,300 jobs were expected to be created by the project. “Construction wages are expected to reach nearly $160 million, with total employee earnings estimated at nearly $550 million. The project will also generate over $300 million in local and state tax revenues,” the webpage for the project on BrightSource’s website states.
While none of this is specifically because the projects are CSP projects rather than PV projects, I wouldn’t rule that out from the possibilities (in addition to the transmission issues, of course).
BrightSource says that it is now focusing its attention on the 500 megawatt (MW) Palen solar thermal power system which is to be located in Riverside, California. The project “will create more than 2,300 jobs for construction workers and support staff” and when completed will “produce clean, reliable solar electricity to more than 200,000 homes,” BrightSource writes.
This project is being co-developed with Abengoa. “Abengoa will build the plants as the Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor, and will lead the operation and maintenance (O & M) of the plant once online. BrightSource will provide the solar technology and plant design.”
Luckily, the Palen solar power project has already received authorization from the California Energy Commission (CEC) for construction and operation.