BrightSource Energy (BSE) is shifting its priorities, realizing that the value of concentrating solar power (CSP) cannot fully be captured in today’s marketplace without energy storage capability.
“Changing dynamics in the California energy markets point to the need for more flexible resources, such as concentrating solar thermal power with storage," BSE noted after agreeing to terminate power purchase agreements (PPAs) for the proposed Hidden Hills CSP solar power tower project.
This is the latest in a series of recent changes BSE has made in its portfolio priorities as it prepares to bring its first full-scale solar power towers at the 372-megawatt Ivanpah Units One, Two and Three on-line in the coming months.
Last fall, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved revised power purchase agreements (PPAs) between BrightSource Energy (BSE) and Southern California Edison (SCE) (NYSE:EIX) for electricity generated by one 250-megawatt unit of BSE’s proposed 500-megawatt Rio Mesa solar power tower project and one 250-megawatt unit of its proposed Sonoran West tower project. The CPUC also rejected three proposed BSE-SCE PPAs.
The revised Sonoran West PPA provided for incorporation of the newer technology, as well as the first deployment of “a few hours” of storage capacity with BSE’s steam-heated molten salts storage system.
The approved and rejected PPAs, BSE told GTM at the time, represented “a workable plan that could be done, taking into account the need for deliverability, and including transmission and constructability,” considering the time factor established by the reduction of the solar energy investment tax credit from 30 percent to 10 percent at the end of 2016.
In March, BSE announced it would partner with Spain’s Abengoa Solar to develop the two-tower, 500-megawatt Palen Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert.
The proposed Hidden Hills project, which could cost more than $2.7 billion to build, has encountered “uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades,” and, if it were to be redesigned to include storage, “would require an amendment to the permit application and reopening of the evidentiary record to account for impacts associated with a new project footprint,” BSE reported.
“Hidden Hills is a good site [on which] to deploy solar thermal with storage technology,” according to BrightSource corporate communications VP Keely Wachs. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has begun a reconsideration process and terminating the existing application “avoids unnecessary time and expense” in the permitting process, he added.
There’s definitely a value in having storage, a PG&E representative commented, and if the permit is revised to include it, the opportunity to reconsider the PPA remains.