BrightSource Energy files for 500 megawatts of solar thermal in CA

BrightSource Energy files for 500 megawatts of solar thermal in CANow that BrightSource’s 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System—when completed it will be one of the largest solar power plants in the world—is well underway, you’d think the company has enough on its plate. Not so. BrightSource recently filed its 500-megawatt Hidden Hills proposal with the California Energy Commission.

The company has a much larger project pipeline overall, according to BrightSource spokesperson Keely Wachs.

“The Hidden Hills project is one of many sites that we have been conducting due diligence on to meet our 2,600 megawatts on contracts with PG&E and SCE,” he said. “We’re currently managing 110,000 acres on various private and public sites. This diverse site portfolio has the potential to produce 11 [gigawatts].”

BrightSource will use its previous experience in projects to develop the Hidden Hills project, according to Wachs.

“Our development team has collectively built more than 20 GW of power plants. It’s a very experienced team, which is reflected in the successful design, permitting and financing of Ivanpah,” he said.

Wachs said that learning from the experience with Ivanpah, its environmental impacts and the opposition, helped in the planning phase for a new plant.

“For example, the Hidden Hills SEGS will use BrightSource’s next-generation plant design, which takes advantage of economies of scale, further driving down the cost of energy while significantly reducing the amount of land used,” he said. “Competing photovoltaic and parabolic trough technologies can use 33 percent or more land in their energy production.”

One of the reasons BrightSource is able to move forward on these projects is that the company takes advantage of existing, proven technology.

“BrightSource Energy’s proprietary [Luz Power Tower] solar thermal technology uses the sun’s energy to create high temperature steam to turn a steam turbine,” Wachs said.

Therefore, the design takes advantage of existing steam turbine and power block technologies.

“The advantage of solar thermal technologies that integrate solar with conventional turbines is that they are able to produce power with similar reliability characteristics to fossil power plants,” he said.

The project, if approved, will consist of two, 250-megawatt solar thermal power plants that will be located on privately owned property near existing high-voltage transmission lines, according to BrightSource.

It’s planned for 3,280 acres of vacant land previously used as an orchard in Inyo County, Calif., near the California and Nevada border.

BrightSource estimates that during construction, the project will create more than 1,000 jobs, and once completed, 120 permanent jobs.

“Over the plant’s 25-year life, construction wages are expected to reach nearly $160 million, with total employee earnings estimated at nearly $390 million,” BrightSource said.

Image courtesy of BrightSource.