Friday, July 6, 2012

BrightSource Energy and NextEra Assume Control of Two Proposed Solar Projects

BrightSource Energy -- the company that has destroyed 5.6 square miles of pristine desert habitat in the Ivanpah Valley for a massive solar facility there -- recently assumed responsibility for Solar Trust of America's (STA) proposed Palen Solar power project during an auction of bankrupt Solar Trust of America's project pipeline. The project would be built on nearly 8 square miles of desert habitat between Blythe and Desert Center, California, and would impact Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) approved STA's Palen Solar project in December 2010, but would presumably have to conduct revised assessments since BrightSource probably would alter the proposed project to include power tower technology.  BrightSource Energy filed a petition with the  CEC, however, seeking to "transfer ownership of the Final Decision" approving the original Palen project.   The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has previously expressed concerns about the project, and filed a request for clarification in response to BrightSource's petition to assume ownership of the final CEC decision, since BrightSource should be assuming ownership of the proposed facility, and not a commission decision.  It's not clear if BrightSource wants to once again take a short cut in environmental review.

NextEra Energy submitted the winning bid to take control of the Blythe Solar power project, which would be built on nearly 11 square miles creosote and microphyll woodland habitat just east of the McCoy Mountains, and destroy sites of cultural significance to Native Americans.   California Governor Jerry Brown and executives of the scandal-plagued STA attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Blythe Solar project in June 2011.  Only minimal ground disturbance took place before STA halted construction as funds ran out. The fate of STA's other projects throughout California and Nevada remains unclear.

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