CSP giants Abengoa, BrightSource partner on giant Palen Solar project

BrightSource's mockup of the Palen Solar Power ProjectTwo of the giant concentrating solar power (CSP) companies, Abengoa and BrightSource Energy have agreed to jointly develop, build and operate the 500 MW Palen Solar Power Project. BrightSource purchased the Palen project from Solar Millennium, which went bankrupt. But now the two CSP companies will work together to permit and finance the two power tower project, which is among the first project being built in one of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Solar Energy Zones.

The Palen project, which was originally designed as a solar trough project, will now consist of two-250 megawatt solar power towers on a Department of Interior Solar Energy Zone in Riverside County, Calif. Under the agreement the companies will use BrightSource’s power tower technology and Spain’s Abengoa will serve as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor. Once completed and online, Abengoa will lead the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the plant.

Construction of the two, 750-foot tall solar tower electricity generating systems will create 2,000 jobs during construction, according to BrightSource. At the same time, the company said redesigning the project as a tower project rather than a trough project, will lessen its impact on the land. “The new design will reduce the project footprint by 13 percent, from 4,366 acres to approximately 3,800 acres, and use 50 percent less water by deploying a dry-cooling technology,” BrightSource said.

Abengoa has built both types of common CSP projects, tower systems and trough systems. Ultimately the purpose of both is to superheat water into steam to turn a turbine generator, just like in a coal or nuclear plant but without the need for a separate fuel source. BirghtSource has focussed on its solar thermal tower technology.

“Bringing on Abengoa as a joint developer and EPC contractor for this world-class solar project is good business and is a huge win for both companies,” said John Woolard, President and CEO of BrightSource Energy. “The partnership at Palen allows BrightSource to focus on what we do best – supplying leading solar thermal technology to partners throughout the world,” he said.

The project has already received revised approvals from the California Energy Commission and at this point permitting and development are underway. According to BrightSource actual construction of the project is expected to begin at the end of 2013, with completion slated for 2016. Once completed the project will provide enough energy to power 200,000 homes. The companies have signed a power-purchase agreement for the project but at this time the offtaker has not been named, said BrightSource spokesperson Kristin Hunter.