California commission looks at terminating stalled review of Hidden Hills solar project

The committee designated by the California Energy Commission to conduct proceedings on the Application for Certification (AFC) for the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System (HHSEGS) has scheduled a June 3 hearing at the commission offices in Sacramento.

On April 8, the applicant filed a petition for continued suspension of the AFC proceeding for this project. On April 16, the committee received the Energy Commission staff’s motion to terminate the proceeding for failure to pursue the application with due diligence under the California Code of Regulations. The committee will conduct the hearing to allow the parties to submit evidence on these competing proposals.

The developer has proposed to build two power towers, solar fields, and associated facilities to generate 270 MW (gross) each (250 MW net), for a total net output of 500 MW. HHSEGS would be located on approximately 3,277 acres of privately-owned land in Inyo County, California, adjacent to the Nevada border. The project site is approximately 18 miles south of Pahrump, Nevada, and 45 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The applicant is collectively Hidden Hills Solar I LLC and Hidden Hills Solar II LLC, which are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Hidden Hills Solar Holdings LLC (their sole member), which is in turn a wholly-owned subsidiary of BrightSource Energy.

In August 2011, applicant submitted its AFC. In April 2013, applicant filed a Notice of Suspension of its AFC. No reason for the suspension was given in the filing other than the conclusion that applicant “determined there is a need to suspend” the AFC. In April 2013, the committee ordered the HHSEGS proceedings suspended. In an October 2013 status report, the applicant said it was reviewing the project to “determine a course of action that would allow for the project to reinitiate permitting activities.” It further advised that it had withdrawn its Interconnection Request at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

In April 2014, the suspension expired. That same month, applicant filed a second Notice of Suspension, indicating that it sought another one year suspension to continue to evaluate and collect information on the project. On May 6, 2014, the committee granted applicant’s request to continue the suspension to April 3, 2015. In October 2014, applicant filed its fourth status report, which indicated that the applicant has been monitoring the California investor owned utilities’ (IOU) 2014 and 2015 Request for Offer (RFO) processes to be prepared to participate with a competitive power tower bid. The fourth status report further stated that the applicant has been unable to identify potential partners to fund the project.

On Feb. 2 of this year, applicant filed its fifth status report, one month late. The report states “the applicant is actively monitoring and participating in the 2015 renewable procurement RFOs with CA. The 2015 procurement window will run through Q2 2015 wherein the applicant will be bidding-in the BrightSource power tower CSP [concentrated solar power] platform. It is expected that the IOU procurement process will provide enhanced transparency pertaining to the permitting and construction schedule for the Hidden Hills CSP project.” The status report adds that the applicant is still attempting to market the HHSEGS to potential project partners to fund the project.

On April 3, the latest suspension expired. On April 8, applicant filed a Petition for Continued Suspension that contains the same language as the two previous “Notices of Suspension” with the added sentence: “The Applicant is actively monitoring the 2014/15 renewable procurement & energy storage solicitations (which run through the end of Q2 2015) with an expectation that results will help to determine a viable commercial path for the Hidden Hills SEGS that would justify the resumption and completion of the suspended permit within the very near term.”

On April 16, commission staff filed its Motion to Terminate Proceeding, stating that the applicant’s status reports contain “absolutely no substantive information regarding the progress of the project, or reasons to continue suspension” and that the “single-page pro-forma statements [are] devoid of substantive or useful information regarding the status of the project, or of activities relevant to its status.” Applicant’s response to staff’s motion was due May 1. The May 11 hearing notice said that to date, the applicant has filed no response. The case docket has no filings from the company since May 11.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.