BrightSource Seeks Permit for 750 MW Mojave Solar Project

By Published On: October 21, 2011

Thermal energy company BrightSource is looking to significantly increase its presence in the Mojave Desert. It seeks approval from the California Energy Commission to construct a 750 MW solar power plant cluster in Riverside County. The Rio Mesa project, as it has been dubbed by BrightSource, would consist of three separate solar power plants that are each 250 MW. The project represents “a huge economic opportunity” and boost for the city, said Blythe Mayor Joey DeConinck. The proposed site is on about 5,700 acres of unincorporated land about 13 miles southwest of Blythe. Each plant is estimated to require about 1,800 acres of land. The proposed acreage includes public acreage managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The majority’s owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. According to the commission, each plant would use a solar power boiler located on top of a 750-foot concrete tower surrounded by about 85,000 mirrors, which would focus solar energy onto the boiler. The project “reflects our continued commitment to setting the bar for environmentally responsible solar power plant development,” stated Stephen Wiley, the company’s U.S. vice president of project development. BrightSource is the company behind the 400 MW Ivanpah power plant under construction on 3,600 acres in the Mojave Desert, as well as the Hidden Hills Solar plant. The latter is a proposed 500 MW facility that would be located on about 3,200 acres of private land in Inyo County. Ivanpah is financed through a $1.6 billion federal loan, as well as investments from Google and NRG Energy. BrightSource expects to find private financing for the Rio Mesa project, company spokesperson Keely Wachs said. The Hidden Hills certification application was approved by the Energy Commission Oct. 5 and a committee is studying whether to issue it a final permit. Similar to the Rio Mesa project, Hidden Hills would consist of solar fields generating 250 MW each, with the solar plants focusing the sun’s rays on a 750-foot tall receiver steam generator tower near the center of each solar field. Despite its recent aggressive moves in the solar field, BrightSource accumulated about $88 million in losses during the first half of 2011 alone, according to an Oct. 12 company prospectus. The company, which filed for a $250 million initial public offering in April, has lost over $265 million since being founded in 2004.

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