SoCal utility signs up for tower power

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - Solar startup BrightSource Energy in February entered into what is being touted as the world’s largest solar deal.

The Oakland-based company plans to provide 1,300 megawatts of solar thermal power to utility Southern California Edison via seven solar power plants. Though the deal is still subject to approval by state regulators, the first plant, slated for Ivanpah, Calif., is expected to produce 100 MW of electricity.

BrightSource, which pulled in $115 million in Series C funding in May 2008, says it plans to build the plants as quickly as possible, given permitting and infrastructural restraints. The Ivanpah plant could be online in 2013, according to the company, which declined to say how much the plants will cost to build.

The plants will employ solar thermal technology via BrightSource’s patented Luz Power Tower 550s. Small mirrors reflect sunlight to a boiler on top of a central tower; steam produced in the boiler is then piped into a turbine to produce electricity. BrightSource, which launched a test solar plant in Israel in June 2008, plans to finance, build and operate the plants. SCE expects to purchase power from BrightSource on a 20-year contractual basis.

The BrightSource deal will be a “significant addition” to SCE’s renewable portfolio, which is already the largest in the country, says Stuart Hemphill, SCE’s vice president of renewable and alternative power. The company recently inked a wind energy deal with Puget Sound Energy for two projects in Washington calling for 2 billion kilowatt-hours over two years.

In March 2008, BrightSource, announced a series of power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas and Electric totaling 900 MW.


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