Bad news for Tessera Solar

On Dec. 23 Southern California Edison notified the California Public Utilities Commission that it terminated its 20 year power-purchase agreement (PPA) with Tessera Solar. Under the PPA, the utility would have purchased the generation from Tessera’s proposed 663 megawatt (MW) Calico solar power plant.

Tessera is a solar company owned by Irish utility, NTR Plc. Tessera is working to develop large-scale solar power plants using SunCatchers, reflective dishes that focus solar energy on a stirling engine which produces electricity. Some of the company’s other large-scale projects, like the 709 MW Imperial Valley Solar project in California and the 145 MW San Luis Valley solar project are also seeing some difficulties.

Tessera's San Luis solar project in Colorado has already been reduced from 200 MWs and is still seeing some local NIMBY (i.e., not in my backyard) opposition as it completes the permitting process. The Imperial solar project is being threatened by an injunction placed by the United States District Court, Southern District of California that will delay the start of construction on that project.

The news from Southern Edison comes shortly after Tessera received final state approval for the Calico project, allowing it to move forward on construction. The California Energy Commission previously approved the project on Oct. 28, but had to correct clerical errors in the final decision. The Calico Solar Project is located on 4,613 acres in San Bernardino County, Calif., east of Barstow.

Southern California Edison spokesperson Vanessa McGrady said the utility is under a non-disclosure agreement with Tessera regarding the project.

“We terminated the agreement,” she said, but could offer little more detail on the circumstances.

Despite terminating the agreement, the utility is still on course to meet its renewable energy requirements under California’s renewable portfolio standard.

"In 2010, we expect to deliver more than 19 percent of our power from renewable resources,” she said. “And we continue to purchase more [renewable energy] for our customers, and we plan to keep growing that in 2011 and beyond.”

Tessera is looking for other purchasers of the electricity that will be produced by the project.

Tessera spokesperson confirmed the PPA termination.

“Specific details and terms around PPAs are confidential,” the Tessera spokesperson said. “Calico Solar is a fully permitted facility, has an interconnection agreement for 850 MW, and is pursuing alternative PPAs to assure its position as a key component of California's renewable energy future.”

Image courtesy of Tessera Solar.