Palen solar farm on hold – solar #4


I’m slowly catching up on the happenings in the solar industry. In my research for this series of articles, I’ve learned the Palen Solar Electric Generating System was put on hold by the California Energy Commission this past December.

If you think I’m slow on the uptake, keep in mind the purpose of this blog is to learn what’s going on around me. I may be a slow learner but I’m learning.

Joshua Hill explains at Clean Technica on 12/20/13:  California Blocks Another Concentrated Solar Power Project. The plan addressed and denied in December was to switch from parabolic trough technology to concentrated solar power.

Based on my accountant non-technical brain’s understanding, I think that means they wanted to shift from 20-foot tall mirrors that would have reflected sunlight to a pipe immediately in front of the mirrors to a different design with mirrors that reflect light to a single collecting point on top of a tower. That would be like the Ivanpah project I’ve discussed here and here.

Part of the reason for the denial is it would be the same wing-toasting design as Ivanpah. The CEC said they haven’t received enough information from the project’s owner on the expected avian mortality from solar flux.

Before pouring a couple of billion dollars into a plant that will operate for a generation, it might be a really good idea to figure out how many federally protected birds will get their wings toasted to a crisp.

Reprieve instead of denial

K Kaufmann at The Desert Sun has an update on 1-7-14: BrightSource gets reprieve on Palen solar project.

On 12/13/13, the CEC denied the owner’s request to change from parabolic mirrors to the collecting towers. On 12/23/13, the company asked for more time.  The CEC granted the request, presumably a day or three before the 1/7/14 date stamp on the article.  All that info according to the article.

The number of wing-toasted birds at Ivanpah is an issue. The company will need to submit unspecified additional information on the melted wings.

There is an additional issue with the site disrupting sacred tribal lands, but I don’t know enough to add insight on that issue.

There doesn’t seem to be a timeline for the additional info. One environmental group thinks one or two years of data on bird mortality should be submitted.

The project was bought in 2012 by the current owners when the prior owner went bankrupt, according to the article. At that point, the design was changed from the then-approved trough mirror design to the now-on-hold proposed solar towers. 

Chris Clarke reported on the postponement on 1/24/13: Unusual Delay For Palen Solar Project

The very unexpected change from denial of the change to postponement of the decision has kept the project alive. Previous comments from the owner indicated the project would be cancelled if not approved at this meeting. A denial would then have been the end of the multi-billion dollar wing-toaster. 

The request for a delay would allow a few months more data to be submitted. Thus the request for an extension instead of denial is seen by the writer as a long-shot effort to keep the project alive somehow.

I’ll try to keep track of developments.

(Photo by James Ulvog shows three towers at Ivanpah. One of the towers is in wing-toasting mode.)

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