Tracking land policy in the Golden State.

BrightSource May Buy Dormant Palen Solar Project

Solar Trust's plant would have used technology similar to this African installation | Photo: Green Prophet/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Bankrupt solar developer Solar Trust of America has asked a bankruptcy court in Delaware to allow former competitor BrightSource to enter an initial bid on the mothballed Palen Solar project in Riverside County, according to Bloomberg. The 500-megawatt solar thermal project was put on hold when Solar Trust's parent company Solar Millennium filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after plummeting prices on photovoltaic panels undercut the firm's projected bottom line.

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BrightSource is currently building the $1.6 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System south of Las Vegas, and has active proposals for new projects near Pahrump, NV and Blythe, CA. If the court grants the request, BrightSource would become the stalking-horse bidder on the project, on which open bidding is scheduled to begin on June 21. BrightSource would thus gain an advantage in the open bidding.

Though the 5,200-acre Palen project has received the go-ahead from the state and lacks only final approval from the BLM, the permit status of the plant should BrightSource acquire it is not at all certain. BrightSource plants use solar power tower technology, which is quite different from the parabolic trough setup Solar Trust had planned. It may be that the California Energy Commission asks BrightSource to head at least part of the way back to the drawing board before approving a new configuration.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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