BrightSource Alters Solar Plant Plan to Address Concerns Over Desert Tortoise  

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The New York Times has a post on slow progress for BrightSource and their proposed solar thermal power project in Southern California - BrightSource Alters Solar Plant Plan to Address Concerns Over Desert Tortoise.

The developer of California’s first new solar power plant in 20 years has proposed revamping the project in an attempt to defuse concern over its effect on the imperiled desert tortoise.

“This reconfiguration is pretty minimal from what we’ve seen and it hasn’t really addressed the core issues on the impact on desert tortoise and rare plants,” said a representative of an environmental group said.

BrightSource Energy on Thursday plans to submit a new design to regulators that shrinks the size of the 4,000-acre Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating Station by 12 percent, reducing the number of desert tortoises that must be relocated and avoiding an area of rare plants.

The portion of the project that would most affect wildlife will be cut by 23 percent. The power plant’s electricity generation would fall from 440 megawatts to 392 megawatts.

Since BrightSource submitted an application to build a solar thermal power plant in August 2007, environmental groups have objected to its location in the Ivanpah Valley in the Southern California desert, saying it would eliminate tortoise habitat.

Surveys have found 25 desert tortoises on the site, which is about 45 miles south of Las Vegas.

Similar disputes have slowed some of the other dozen solar power plants now undergoing licensing in California, and the resolution of the Ivanpah issues could point the way to removing such obstacles.

“I want to make clear to everybody that this is an extremely important project,” Jeffrey Byron, a member of the California Energy Commission, said at a Jan. 11 hearing on the Ivanpah solar farm. “This represents the first of what we hope will be many renewable projects that will come before the energy commission.” ...

BrightSource, which is backed by Google, Morgan Stanley, Chevron and BP, has signed contracts to supply 2,600 megawatts of electricity to California utilities, which are struggling to meet a state mandate to obtain 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Giles Parkinson at The Australian has a bit more on the purchase of Ausra by Areva - Solar technology heads offshore for sunnier future .
THIS is a tale of two emerging solar technologies. One that gauged the state of the local market and decided to try its luck overseas and has now been bought by the world's biggest nuclear energy group, and the other that elected to stay at home, seduced by a massive government subsidy, and has now been sold to a local company at a bargain basement price.

The fortunes of Ausra and Solar Systems have captivated those behind similar emerging technologies such as solar, geothermal and wave because they are confronted by the same dilemma: should they stay or should they go to greener pastures? The experience of these two companies and the current state of Australian policy suggests there is little incentive to stay.

It was an extraordinary coincidence that the sale of both companies -- leaders in their respective fields -- was announced within an hour of each other last Tuesday, and the contrasting fortunes could not have been more dramatic.

Ausra was sold to Areva and the solar thermal energy technology developed by UNSW researcher David Mills will now be used as the springboard for the French giant's ambitions to dominate the global solar thermal energy market in the same way it does nuclear. Solar Systems, the company that was at one time to build the world's largest solar energy utility, has been sold to the listed Silex Systems, which says it will invest around $10 million to see if it can resolve the issues around the concentrated solar photovoltaic technology and help it deliver on its former promise. ...

The truth remains, however, that despite the hugely abundant natural sources of renewable energy, and the undoubted brilliance of its researchers and engineers, Australia remains a lousy place to invest in and develop renewable energy.

There is no market-based mechanism or government incentive that supports a broad portfolio of technologies, and the government still limits itself to one-off subsidies to a chosen few, which means the focus goes on the construction of "trophy" projects rather than the development of technology.

Marine, solar and even geothermal groups are seriously considering packing their bags for more receptive regimes overseas. At least there, the thought might be, they can get access to finance and attract major developers.


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