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BrightSource wins bid for Solar Trust’s Palen project

Construction underway at BrightSource

BrightSource Energy Inc. won the rights to pursue the Palen Solar Power Project originally being developed by Solar Trust of America. Solar Trust and its German parent Solar Millennium declared bankruptcy last year. The 500 megawatt Palen project was proposed as two separate 250 megawatt projects. It was put at risk of not being completed, but this should allow the project to move forward.

BrightSource won the project with a $10 million bid, according to various news sources. “BrightSource has been confirmed as the winning bidder for the Palen Solar Power Project in Solar Trust of America’s bankruptcy auction,” said BrightSource spokesperson Kristin Hunter. “We will work closely with Solar Trust of America to satisfy certain customary conditions to close the purchase of the project.”

Although the company won the bid, a pending court hearing later this week will determine whether or not to approve the sale. “Once the court approves the sale and the conditions are satisfied, the acquisition will be complete,” Hunter said. 

While both Solar Trust and BrightSource are solar thermal companies, Solar Trust used reflective trough technology to concentrate sunlight on a tube, filled with a heat transfer liquid like antifreeze. The heated liquid is passed through a heat exchange to convert water into steam which then pushes a turbine to generate electricity. BrightSource’s projects use a field of computer controlled heliostats to focus sunlight on a centralized tower filled with a heat transfer material used in a similar process to create steam to power a turbine.

The company plans to use its power tower technology at the Palen site. “We are a power tower company and this is the only technology that we plan on building for our 2.4 gigawatts of contractual agreements with PG&E and Southern California Edison, or any other future projects resulting from new origination opportunities,” Hunter said. “We believe that the power tower is the most cost-effective resource to provide utilities with reliable and dispatchable clean power.”

After the sale, the project will have to go through some additional steps like gaining final approval from the Bureau of Land Management and approval from California for the change in technology. However, California passed legislation last year making it easier for solar projects to switch technologies, which should help reduce project delays.

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