BrightSource Energy set to buy 500 MW concentrating solar power Palen project

A resurgence of large-scale concentrated solar thermal power plants on public and private land east of the Coachella Valley could be underway, with BrightSource Energy’s winning bid for Solar Trust of America’s stalled Palen project in Thursday’s bankruptcy auction.

BrightSource submitted a $10 million bid for the 500-megawatt concentrated solar power plant earlier this month as part of the court-approved auction of four solar energy projects Solar Trust had in development at the time of its April bankruptcy filing. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware still has to approve the sale, which could happen at a hearing set for June 27.

No sales have been announced for the company’s 1,000-megawatt Blythe project 8 miles west of the city of Blythe, or the company’s other two solar energy projects, one near Ridgecrest and one in Nevada.

BrightSource uses concentrated solar tower technology, with thousands of mirrors, or heliostats, reflecting heat onto a boiler at the top of a central solar tower, that can top out at 750 feet. Steam from the boiler is used to power a turbine, which produces electricity.

In addition to its 392-megawatt Ivanpah project now under construction 50 miles northwest of Needles, the company is developing the 500-megawatt Rio Mesa concentrating solar power project on 4,070 acres of mostly private land 13 miles southwest of Blythe. Rio Mesa is in the permitting process with Riverside County.

Solar Trust originally planned Blythe and Palen as concentrating solar thermal projects, though using a parabolic trough technology that does include a central solar tower. But as solar panel prices plummeted last year, both projects were put on hold for a possible transition to panels.