BrightSource responds to criticism—once again

A BrightSource project BrightSource Energy, which is developing the Ivanpah solar project and other concentrating solar power plants in California, has again come under criticism for its projects. The company’s projects have received the blessings of conservation organizations like the Sierra Club and NRDC and also labor unions for its plans to build these giant solar projects, yet a reporter for the LA Times, who renewed criticism of the projects, contends that they won’t hire as many people as they promise or produce as much revenue as projected.

The reporter previously criticized BrightSource Energy for its treatment of the desert tortoise at the Ivanpah site, even though BrightSource chose to shut down construction to make sure any of the at risk species were properly cared for.

Among other charges the reporter lodged against BrightSource is that the Hidden Hills project in Inyo County, Cal., will not produce as many local jobs as the company promised, with only about 5 percent coming from the county. “The story ignores the fact that the primary reason that 5 percent of the construction workers come from Inyo County is because it has a small population. According to the most recent census, Inyo County has 18,000 residents,” wrote BrightSource Energy’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications Keely Wachs in a blog post. Wachs also pointed to a California Energy Commission report, which stated, “Due to extraordinarily high unemployment rates within Inyo County, particularly in the construction trades, it is reasonable to assume that the local labor force will be able to supply all available positions.”
 
The article also portrayed BrightSource and the solar industry as trying to strong-arm local officials. BrightSource responded the article was misinformed and one-sided and it is still working with county leaders to implement the Hidden Hills project. “We are committed to building strong relationships with the various stakeholders around our solar energy projects,” said spokesperson Kristin Hunter. “We are proud to work closely with local leaders and to be an active participant in the communities. We will continue this approach as we move forward with our future projects.”

The LA Times piece also asserted that the project may not produce the returns it promised. But the county’s own assessors anticipated that the project, over its 28 year duration, would produce between $61.1 million and $88.2 million for the county.

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