California — Chalk another point for concentrating solar power (CSP) in California. Or make that 392 points. Weeks after approving a 1-GW plant and 250-MW plant, the California Energy Commission told BrightSource Energy that it could proceed with construction of a 392-MW CSP project in the Mojave Desert.
Like the other projects already approved, BrightSource must wait for a Bureau of Land Management decision to start putting steel in the ground. However, the BLM has indicated that it will fast track these decisions.
BrightSource uses fields of mirrors called “heliostats” that reflect sunlight onto a boiler in a central power tower. The company claims that the process is one of the most environmentally-friendly CSP technologies because it is air cooled, thus requiring around 95% less water than wet-cooled facilities.
Also, by using mirrors that can be installed along the contours of the landscape, the company says it doesn’t have to flatten the ground around the project. Parabolic troughs, on the other hand, require perfectly flat ground.
Things have fallen into place for BrightSource in 2010. The company got a $1.3 billion loan guarantee from the federal government earlier this year to build the facility and it signed power purchase agreements with two major California utilities, PG&E and SCE.
It’s been a long few years for CSP companies as they’ve worked with financiers, utilities, regulators and environmental groups to iron out the details of these new and complicated projects. That work is finally paying off.
The Sleeping Giant of solar is finally awake.
In the interview below, BrightSource’s Charlie Ricker explains why he’s bullish about the CSP market in the U.S.