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California Blocks Another Concentrated Solar Power Project

The Californian Energy Commission announced Monday that it would be blocking the construction of Brightsource’s proposed 500 MW Palen Solar Electric Generating System’s project, a concentrated solar power (CSP) project, the fourth such project Brightsource has attempted to construct, of which only the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project has been developed.

The announcement came in a dual decision, which saw the Commission approve the Blythe Solar Power Project but deny the Palen project. According to the committee dealing with the proposed Palen project, it was denied because of “significant unmitigable impacts to cultural and visual resources [and] … biological resources due to the risk of solar flux on avian species.”

The Palen proposal was an attempt to change the technology from the existing parabolic trough technology which was approved in December of 2010 to CSP technology, which would have seen two 250 MW solar towers installed.

As of now, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project is the only similar power plant using the power tower technology that has been certified by the California Energy Commission and built,” the Commission ruled (PDF). “To date, ISEGS has not operated at full capacity, but has already resulted in a number of bird deaths,” adding that Brightsource hasn’t provided the Commission with sufficient records to estimate the number of birds harmed or killed as a result of the Ivanpah project.

Brightsource do not believe they have the financial capacity to adhere to either of the Commission’s rulings — that the site be converted back to a parabolic trough technology or a photovoltaic solar farm — given the current conditions surrounding its financing of the project.

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