California reinstates Tessera concentrating solar power plant

Monday, December 6, at the Saguache County Courthouse the final public hearing on the Tessera proposal to build a solar thermal plant will be conducted. It will begin at 2pm with a presentation by Tessera followed by public comments.

The Commissioners plan to be there until 7pm to hear from County residents. Be aware, you won’t get to vote—only speak. There will be only three votes at a later date cast by the Commissioners, but you will be heard and this is your opportunity to let them know where you stand on this issue. And this issue is a big deal with lots of controversy.

Houston-based Tessera Solar will testify at a hearing at 2 p.m. on the expected impact of the solar thermal plant that will sit on 1,526 acres and mitigation measures it would take. The proposed Tessera solar electric plant would be on County Road T, west of State Highway 17. It is planned to consist of 5,728 SunCatchers, each generating 25 kilowatts with a total generating capacity of 145 megawatts.

The hearing also will also include public comment beginning at 4 p.m., which could be partly filled by neighbors and local environmental groups that object to the project’s noise and its impact on wetlands, among other concerns.

The company shrunk the concentrated solar energy project by 23 percent in September because the previous version would have violated state noise standards, which are limited to 55 decibels at a point 25 feet beyond the property line.

The noise concerns stem from the design of the company’s technology, which would have a motor mounted on each dish.

The company would deploy 5,728 dishes at the site to gather the sun’s heat. Each dish would be as tall as 38 feet and track the sun to focus sunlight on an engine, which would produce electricity.

Potential noise from those engines could remain a sticking point. An independent analysis contracted by the county found that Tessera understated the revised project’s noise levels and that noise still would exceed county guidelines and state standards.

The San Luis Valley Renewable Communities Alliance has objected to the project’s impact on wetlands. The solar thermal plant would eliminate 0.6 acres of wetlands, according to Tessera’s permit application.

But the alliance points out that the amount of wetlands on the site could change drastically with new state rules that are expected to limit groundwater pumping in the area.

With more groundwater in the area, more wetlands could occur and the water table could rise, making it more vulnerable to contamination at the site, the alliance contends.

Economically, Tessera projects that operation of the plant would require 40 permanent jobs in a county where the unemployment rate is currently 9.3 percent, according to state statistics.

There is only one Tessera concentrated solar energy plant in existence, which consists in of 60 SunCatchers and it is located Maricopa County in an industrial zone near Phoenix, Arizona.

The Concentrating Solar Power project also would bring a projected $1.5 million in property-tax revenue to the county, according to Tessera’s application.

By Matt Hildner, The Pueblo Chieftain,

Tessera Solar is an independent power company and developer, builder, operator and owner of large utility-scale solar power plants.

The company’s first plant, Maricopa Solar, began operations in Arizona in January 2010. With two of the world’s largest solar plants in California, Tessera Solar is changing the way people think about solar as the preeminent renewable energy source for the 21st century.

Our philosophy is simple: work in partnership with public and private stakeholders to build affordable and truly sustainable power facilities that deliver economic development and clean, predictable power to communities.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is one of the most promising sources of renewable energy for the 21st century. Tessera Solar is the exclusive developer and operator of the SunCatcher™ solar dish Stirling system developed by Stirling Energy Systems, Inc. (SES).