Brightsource, Abengoa scrap plans for controversial solar CSP project


Last Friday, Palen Solar Holdings LLC quietly filed to cancel its application at the California Energy Commission. This is the end for the solar tower project CSP project, which was previously scaled down from two towers comprising 500 MW to one, 250 MW solar power tower.

Palen has been a flashpoint for the fight between solar developers and conservationists in the California desert. Following the discovery of birds burned by the solar flux at BrightSource’s Ivanpah plant, conservation groups and sympathetic journalists had raised concerns about the potential for higher numbers of bird deaths at Palen.

As Ivanpah brought a new level of scrutiny to the issue, there was no long-term reliable data to draw from. The number of actual deaths is a matter of heated debate, between a relatively low number of dead birds reported at Ivanpah and sensationalistic estimates widely propagated without context in the media.

Conservationists were also motivated to stop the project for aesthetic reasons, as it would be visible from the nearby Joshua Tree National Monument.

BrightSource Senior VP of Marketing and Government Affairs Joe Desmond has re-affirmed the developer’s plans to build more solar power tower CSP projects in the future.

“After carefully reviewing the proposed decision recommending approval of one tower, we determined it would be in the best interest of all parties to bring forward a project that would better meet the needs of the market and energy consumers. ”

“We believe concentrating solar power, and specifically tower technology with thermal energy storage, can play a key role in helping California achieve its clean energy goals by providing the necessary flexibility needed to help maintain grid reliability.”

“In addition, we are committed to bringing projects to the market that follow sound and responsible environmental measures to ensure all impacts are avoided, minimized or compensated for properly.”

Correction: The quote in this article was originally attributed to Palen Solar Holdings LLC. Instead, Joe Desmond of BrightSource has been identified as the source.