BrightSource takes step toward buying 500-MW Palen solar project

BrightSource is evidently a step closer to acquiring the 500-MW Palen solar project in California following a Delaware court ruling.

In a related development, the bankruptcy court in Delaware also cleared the way for NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE) to purchase another large, unbuilt solar project.  NextEra would get the right to buy the 1,000-MW Blythe power project, a NextEra spokesperson confirmed.

BrightSource recently won the bid for Palen, which is being sold as part of Solar Trust of America’s bankruptcy auction, according to an item posted on the BrightSource website June 27. BrightSource expects the sale will be closed in July.

Likewise, the NextEra deal for Blythe has not closed yet either, the NextEra representative said. Blythe was started by the same developer as Palen. Blythe is located in Riverside County, Calif., according to California Energy Commission data.

BrightSource and Solar Trust will need to satisfy a number of conditions before closing the sale of the Palen project, including the transfer of the California Energy Commission (CEC) permit from Solar Trust of America to BrightSource. This petition is currently pending and will be heard by the CEC on July 11.

The Palen project is partially permitted and has access to transmission lines, according to BrightSource.

The project spans 4,230 acres of public and private land, approximately 10 miles east of Desert Center in Riverside County, Calif. It can accommodate two of BrightSource’s 250 MW solar power tower plants. The project can interconnect to the California grid at the nearby Red Bluff substation, which is under construction and on schedule to be completed in December 2013.

BrightSource expects it will convert the project to its proprietary solar thermal power tower technology.

The Palen project was originally developed by Solar Millennium and designed as a solar thermal parabolic trough plant. In 2009, Solar Millennium created Solar Trust of America as a joint venture with German industrial giant Ferrostaal to build solar thermal power project in the American Southwest.

Solar Millennium declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2011 and discontinued funding of Solar Trust of America. Solar Trust of America declared bankruptcy in April. The Palen project was made available as part of the auction of Solar Trust of America’s assets in June. BrightSource was named the stalking horse bidder for the project on June 11 and secured the highest bid on June 21. On June 27, the court approved the sale.

BrightSource was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Oakland, Calif.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.