The first four days of five-days of evidentiary hearings for the proposed 500 MW Hidden Hills solar facility were held this week in Inyo County, as project applicant BrightSource attempts to win state approval for the $2.7 billion, 3,200-acre project. Rather than taking time with the usual formal direct and cross-examination of individual witnesses, the California Energy Commission siting committee called witnesses to testify as a part of panels on topics or issues within their expertise. The testimony, which took place at a high school in the town of Shoshone, deviated from the CEC’s norm in that the siting committee, led by presiding member Karen Douglas, posed the questions to the panelists instead of lawyers. During the first three days, BrightSource representatives answered questions pertaining to concerns about the land use and visual impacts the project would cause and how the project would affect biological resources, specifically possible displacement of the desert tortoise and bird species. The March 15 session was partially devoted to the issues of greenhouse gas emissions and air quality. The hearing is expected to conclude March 18 with panels tackling the issues of hazardous materials, project alternatives and general conditions on the agenda. If the project is approved, construction could start in the second quarter of 2013 and end the fourth quarter of 2015, according to BrightSource.