BrightSource Energy’s flagship Ivanpah Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) project, in the Mojave desert, is near completion. But Palen may be on its deathbed.
BrightSource hoped to convince state regulators with the California Energy Commission to allow it to move forward with Palen, a proposed 500 megawatt concentrated solar thermal power plant being jointly developed with Abengoa. But in a thousand-page long proposed decision released late Friday, CEC staff rejected the Palen plans due to the potential for bird deaths from intense radiation, or solar flux, from the thousands of mirrors, or heliostats.
“The committee finds that the amended project will also result in significant and unmitigable impacts to biological resources due to the risk of solar flux on avian species,” read the CEC staff report. “The committee recommends denying the project amendment at this time, finding that the totality of the project impacts outweighs the totality of the project benefits.”
Palen was originally approved in 2010 as a parabolic-trough CSP plant developed by a subsidiary of Germany’s Solar Millennium. When Solar Millennium went bankrupt, BrightSource acquired Palen. In 2012, BrightSource asked the state for permission to change the technology to two 250-megawatt power towers and 170,000 heliostats.
Two other BrightSource projects — the proposed Rio Mesa solar plant in Riverside and Hidden Hills in Inyo County — were effectively mothballed due to permitting issues.