SOMETHIN’ HAPPENIN’ HERE 2 – CALIF REGULATORS BLOCK SOLAR POWER PLANTS
Who takes the heat for standing between Californians and the energy from their sunshine?
BrightSource Energy has applications pending for large solar power plant installations in California’s Mojave desert. The technology is ready. The financing is in place. The power is sold through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. (PG&E), the state’s biggest utility.
Only 1 thing is missing: Permission.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are working out the details of the permitting. They have been working out the details for some time and there is no sign of approval.
BrightSource Energy says this interminable delay sends "a chilling signal to large-scale solar developers and their investors…[instead of] the right signal ... that California welcomes and supports [solar power plant projects]..."
Adding to the controversy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (an in-law to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Terry Tamminen (Schwarzenegger’s former environmental secretary) are part of VantagePoint Venture Partners, a private investment group with a multimillion-dollar stake in the BrightSource installation.
The “not-whatcha-know-but-whoya-know" folks don’t seem to be doing BrightSource much good despite the fact that the governator is maybe one of the biggest solar energy cheerleaders in the country.
Schwarzenegger: "My vision is that when I fly up and down the state of California that I see everything blanketed, every available space blanketed, with solar - if it's parking lots, if it's on top of buildings, on top of prisons, universities, government buildings, hospitals…Solar, solar, solar, that is my goal…"
Schwarzenegger might be able to influence the CEC but nothing seems to be able to move the BLM, which must agree to lease its Mojave Desert land. Its review has generated thousands of pages of documents and studies on everything from possible erosion to impacts on a protected desert tortoise.
Could it be the feds would rather see California remain reliant on natural gas instead of building solar power plants?
Ausra, another innovative California solar power plant builder, made the strategic decision to develop purchased or leased private land. The result: It brought a 5-megawatt pilot facility online last week and is building a 177-megawatt plant that should be ready by Summer 2009.
BrightSource wants a decision on its project by Summer 2009. Some observers say it could take until the following summer.
The Brightsource Energy solar power plant technology. From 5293565 via YouTube.
Startup tied to California governor seeks regulatory approval for new plant
October 27, 2008 (The Canadian Press)
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; California Energy Commission (CEC); BrightSource Energy; Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Ausra (Rob Morgan, executive vice president); Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. (PG&E)
Brightsource Energy is pushing the CEC and the BLM to grant approval for its proposed 400-megawatt Ivanpah solar power plant installations.
click to enlarge
- The BrightSource project could be the first large-scale solar plant on BLM property.
- BrightSource expected approval this month.
- There is speculation no decision will come before early 2010 which would put in serious jeopardy Brightsource’s ability to meet power purchase agreements with PG&E to provide electricity in in mid-2011.
- Ausra opened a 5-megawatt facility last week, the first solar power plant to go online in California in 2 decades.
- The BrightSource solar power plant project is planned for a site near the Mojave Desert National Preserve along the California-Nevada state line.
- Solar power plant builders want to develop a 2,600+ square kilometer stretch of federal land, an area bigger than the Hawaiian island of Maui.
- Ausra is building a 177-megawatt plant in San Luis Obispo County.
- PG&E is California’s biggest utility.
- The BrightSource Energy project has been described as a potential breakthrough in U.S. utility-scale solar power plant development. Of the dozens proposed for the region, it is being closely watched as an indicator.
- The BrightSource Energy project would be 3 installations on ~15 square kilometers of federal, BLM-managed land.
- The $2 billion BrightSource installations would use a solar power tower concept in which a field of mirrors concentrate the sun’s heat at the top of a central tower where a liquid is heated to very high temperatures and flows to a power plant where the heat boils water to make steam that drives a turbine that generates electricity.
- In the Brightsource plan, the installations would have ~200,000 7-square-meter mirrors.
BrightSource founder and solar power plant pioneer Arnold Goldman, reflected in one of the BrightSource power plant mirrors. (From the NY Times - click to enlarge)
- Rob Morgan, executive vice president, Ausra: "We feel that the best way to meet our customers' needs in a timely, reliable manner is to initially build on private land…We can address permitting and environmental impact issues more swiftly and cost-effectively on private land."