Concentrating solar power: 500 MW Hidden Hills solar tower plant

At a regular business meeting on October 5th, 2011, the Energy Commission voted to accept the application for certification for the 500-megawatt concentrating solar thermal power project as data adequate.

Data adequacy means the Energy Commission received enough information from the applicant, Hidden Hills Solar Holdings, LLC, to begin the discovery analysis phase of the certification process. Hidden Hills Solar Holdings, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of BrightSource Energy, Inc.

Two separate 250-MW concentrated solar energy plants, each with a solar field of about 85,000 heliostats. The CSP project will be located on 3,277 acres of privately owned land leased in Inyo County next to the Nevada border. The concentrating solar thermal power project site is about 18 miles south of Pahrump, Nevada and about 45 miles west of Las Vegas. Transmission and natural gas pipeline alignments will be located in Nevada, primarily on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The applicant will be constructing two separate 250-megawatt solar thermal power plants, each with its own solar field of about 85,000 heliostats and a 750-foot tall solar power tower.

The concentrating solar thermal power plant will use heliostats, which are elevated mirrors guided by a tracking system mounted on a pylon, to focus the sun’s rays on a solar receiver steam generator atop a power tower near the center of the solar field.

The Commission named Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas as the presiding member of the committee reviewing the project. Commissioner Carla Peterman is the associate committee member. The committee will ensure that the project meets the Energy Commission’s siting requirements, as well as those of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Energy Commission is responsible for reviewing thermal electric power plants that are 50 megawatts and greater in California.

As lead agency under CEQA, the Energy Commission, through its facility certification process, examines public health and safety, environmental impacts, and engineering aspects of proposed power plants and all related facilities, such as electric transmission lines and natural gas and water pipelines.

The capital cost for the project is estimated to exceed USD 2.7 billion. The concentrating solar power project will create 1,087 jobs at the peak of the 29-month construction period, with another 120 full-time jobs when the project is operational.

If approved by the Energy Commission, construction is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2014 or the first quarter of 2015. Commercial operation of the first solar plant would be in the first quarter of 2015, with the second solar plant operating in the second quarter of 2015.