California rejects another Brightsource CSP project

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The California Energy Commission has blocked the construction of Brightsource’s 500MW Palen project.

The Palen Solar Electric Generating System’s (PSEGS) plans involved two CSP towers generating 250MW of energy each.

It is the fourth and final large-scale application in the US. Of those, only its Ivanpah CSP project has been developed.

The commission cited concerns over birdlife following indications that Ivanpah has scorched some passing birds.

“Petitioner argues that an attempt to predict and quantify the project’s potential avian mortality would be improper speculation. However, substantial evidence in the record leads us to the conclusion that avian mortality at the PSEGS project is a virtual certainty,” read the decision published by the commission.

“As of now, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) project is the only similar power plant using the power tower technology that has been certified by the California Energy Commission and built. To date, ISEGS has not operated at full capacity, but has already resulted in a number of bird deaths. Petitioner has not provided us with sufficient records to calculate a reasonable estimate of avian mortality at PSEGS,” it continued.

The report recommend the conversion of the site, which is on federal land, back to parabolic trough technology. The application by the original applicants for the site, which are now bankrupt, had originally suggested trough technology. The commission also suggested converting the site to a photovoltaic solar farm.

According to the 1000-page document detailing the commissions decision,  Brightsource does not believe either of these options to be economically feasible given the conditions of its financing for the project.

During evidence giving it said: “Though the terms of the PPAs in question are indeed confidential, it can be stated with certainty that the PPAs in question do not allow for a change in technology without the requisite counterparty and CPUC approval, both would be a lengthy and uncertain process.”

The company also said that its interconnection agreement would need be changed which would also be “a lengthy process” and an amendment to either would mean the project could not be established in time to qualify for the Investment Tax Credit, which runs out in 2016.

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