Oakland, Calif., August 8, 2011 – BrightSource Energy, a solar thermal technology company, has filed an application for certification with the California Energy Commission for the development of two 250 MW solar power plants (500 MW combined) in California’s Inyo County.
If approved, the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System will use BrightSource‘s next-generation plant design. This design takes advantage of economies of scale, further driving down the cost of energy while reducing the project’s land use footprint.
The proposed project site is located on 3,280 acres of privately-owned land in Inyo County, California, adjacent to the California / Nevada border. The site is located about 18 miles south of Pahrump, Nevada, and 45 miles west of Las Vegas.
BrightSource will construct two separate 250 MW solar thermal power plants, each with its own solar field and solar power tower. When complete, the two plants are expected to produce enough electricity to power 178,000 homes and avoid more than 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
The proposed site is privately-owned and well-suited for a solar thermal power plant. It has excellent solar resources and access to existing, nearby high-voltage transmission lines. The land is predominately flat, and dry, and sparsely vegetated. Until recently, there were plans for a housing subdivision. The property has also been used in the past as an orchard.
The Hidden Hills SEGS project will create more than 1,000 construction jobs at the peak of construction and about 120 operations and maintenance jobs. Over the plant’s 25-year life, construction wages are expected to reach nearly $160 million, with total employee earnings estimated at nearly $390 million.
The Hidden Hills SEGS will use BrightSource Energy’s proprietary LPT solar thermal energy system. The LPT system generates power the same way as traditional power plants – by creating high temperature steam to turn a turbine.
However, instead of using fossil fuels or nuclear power to create the steam, BrightSource uses the sun’s energy. At the heart of the LPT system is a solar field design, optimization software and a control system that allow for the creation of high temperature steam. The steam can then be integrated with conventional power plant components to produce predictable, reliable and cost-competitive clean energy.
BrightSource’s LPT system is designed to minimize impacts on the natural environment. The new plant design at Hidden Hills SEGS will feature a taller tower that allows for greater concentration of heliostats, significantly reducing the amount of land required to produce energy.
Additionally, BrightSource will place mirrors on individual poles that are placed directly into the ground, allowing the solar field to be built around the natural contours of the land and avoid areas of sensitive vegetation. This design also allows for vegetation to co-exist within the solar field and avoids the extensive land grading and concrete pads associated with other solar technology system designs.
In order to conserve precious desert water, the Hidden Hills project will employ an air-cooling system to convert the steam back into water in a closed-loop cycle. By using air-cooling, the project will use only 140 acre feet of water per year, less than ten percent of the total amount of water used in competing solar thermal technologies with wet-cooling.
Hidden Hills SEGS will provide power to Pacific Gas & Electric pursuant to two power purchase agreements approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2010. BrightSource Energy is currently fulfilling its 2.6 GW of power contracts with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., California’s two largest utilities.
BrightSource is currently constructing its 392-MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert. When construction is complete in 2013, Ivanpah will nearly double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today. Headquartered in Oakland, Calif., BrightSource Energy is a privately held company with operations in the United States and Israel.