Why CSP Will Thrive

SkyFuel Solar Panel

Since its founding in 2006, BrightSource has significantly evolved – from a small start-up with a great idea that became the foundation for the world’s largest solar thermal power project – to a company focused on global deployment of its solar field technology and support services. We wanted to share some details of that evolution, along with our views toward the future.

Our proprietary technology concentrates the sun’s energy to produce high-value steam to power electricity, petroleum and industrial process markets. To successfully bring this new technology to market, BrightSource self-developed projects in the U.S. Today, BrightSource has established itself as a leading provider of solar field technology. Our 29 megawatts thermal Chevron/BrightSource Solar-to-Steam Demonstration Facility in Coalinga, Calif. has been in operation for nearly a year and continues to exceed its performance targets. The 377 MW (net) Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, built in partnership with NRG and Google in California’s Mojave Desert, is nearing completion and on track to be fully operational by the end of the year. When complete, Ivanpah will be the largest solar thermal facility in the world.

As our technology is validated at increasingly greater scale, BrightSource is evolving from being a U.S. project developer to becoming a global technology provider that also offers development support as well as engineering and operational services. The strategic development partnerships we have formed with Alstom and Abengoa further underscore this transition as well as the accelerated adoption of our technology.

As use of renewable electricity increases worldwide, there are major planning challenges associated with moving to a fleet that includes large amounts of variable resources, such as wind and photovoltaics (PV). BrightSource’s technology helps utilities and grid operators address integration challenges by delivering a firmer, more reliable and more controllable renewable power source.

The ability to flexibly dispatch power when it is most needed is highly valued, especially as regulators evaluate the cost of renewable energy projects and include costs associated with integration, permitting and transmission. For example, a recent NREL report analyzed the value of concentrated solar power (CSP) with storage in a California 33% renewable scenario and concluded that due to its flexibility in dispatching power to the grid, the value of CSP with storage in a high-renewables penetration scenario in 2020 is $32/MWh to $40/MWh higher than the value of a PV plant. It is clear that CSP can make significant contributions to our global clean energy, climate and economic goals.

Globally, we are seeing tremendous interest for CSP, especially in hybrid and storage applications. We estimate the global market for CSP to be approximately 30 gigawatts by 2020. International markets with significant future CSP growth include the Americas, China, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and South Africa. As we actively pursue international markets, we will continue to align with partners to emphasize our role as a provider of best-in-class technology and related services into projects that are developed, financed and owned by others. These projects will likely include solar electric (both with and without storage) and enhanced oil recovery projects, as well as other industrial applications seeking high quality and renewably generated steam. Partnering with world-class companies enables BrightSource to meet demand for our technology faster and more cost-effectively.

BrightSource has accomplished a tremendous amount over the last seven years. We are committed to work together as a team as we advance the company’s technology, expand our geographic scope, and transition to a new CEO over the next few months.  As the company readies for its next stage of growth, we look forward to harnessing the sun’s limitless potential to meet the world’s clean energy needs one project at a time.


H. David Ramm, Executive Chairman

John Woolard, Member of the Board of Directors

Original Article on BrightSource Energy Blog


Heliostat Technology from BrightSource

brightsource-heliosThe Ivanpah Solar project just celebrated installation of the 100,000th heliostat, but what, you may ask, is a heliostat?  The word ‘heliostat’ comes from the Greek words helios (sun) and stat (stationary), meaning a device that tracks the sun from a stationary point. In order to harness the energy of the sun, we must first capture its sunlight, which is called “flux.”

Most concentrated solar technologies use mirrors to focus flux, and there is a wide range of heliostat designs used across the industry. BrightSource has developed several versions of the flat-pane heliostat and continues to improve the design and functionality of the flux-reflecting device. Our heliostats are made of specially designed mirrors to withstand desert heat and winds while tracking and reflecting the sun’s rays onto the boiler atop the power tower to create high temperature steam.

In 2007, our first heliostats were built for the 6MW Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC). The SEDC’s heliostats are single-pane and have a reflective area of 78 square feet. Each mirror is connected to a dual-axis tracking system, allowing the mirror to move on the pylon 360 degrees for optimal reflection. The team at the SEDC produced 15-20 heliostats each day for the demonstration facility and after five months of work, the team installed more than 1,600 heliostats in the SEDC solar field.

In preparation for the construction of a 29MWth solar-to-steam facility for Chevron’s Coalinga oil field in California in 2009, the team improved upon the initial design and placed two separate mirrors on a single frame, doubling the reflective surface of each heliostat for a total of 155 square feet. The heliostat production facility in Coalinga included an assembly line and increased the output to 32 heliostats per day for the 3,822 total heliostats in the Coalinga solar field.

Our work at the SEDC and Coalinga were largely in preparation for our Ivanpah project.  The 377MW Ivanpah Facility requires many, many more heliostats; 173,500 to be exact. With the new two-panel design, nearly 350,000 mirrors would need to be assembled and installed quickly. To meet the challenge, the team further refined the heliostat design and assembly line in 2010 to increase efficiency. The result was a 163 square feet reflective surface, an improved tracking system and an even more elaborate, efficient assembly line for rapid manufacturing. As Ivanpah nears completion, the team continues to produce over 500 completed heliostats each day – more than one heliostat every 90 seconds.

Further improvements are coming in 2013. In June 2012, BrightSource announced the award of a grant to automate the heliostat assembly process. The Flexible Assembly Solar Technology (FAST) system will reduce the cost and construction time for heliostat production by streamlining the assembly and installation processes directly on the solar field, eliminating the need for temporary and costly assembly lines.  Improved heliostat production comes just in time for the 500MW Rio Mesa and 500MW Sonoran West projects, due to begin construction in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Original Article on BrightSource Energy Blog

Desert Counties DO Benefit from Utility Projects

As other reporters and bloggers have pointed out, Sunday’s Los Angeles Times ran a one-sided and misinformed article questioning the economic benefits of utility-scale solar projects on desert counties.

Let’s be perfectly clear – the counties where utility-scale solar projects are being built are benefitting significantly in direct and economic investments, tax revenues and job creation.  For example, our $2.2 billion Ivanpah project is more than 70% complete and is employing more than 2,000 workers on site today.  At its peak, the project employed more than 2,100 workers, and is estimated to generate $250 million in construction wages and $650 million in total wages over its 30-year life.  More than 80 percent of these workers are from the local union halls in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.  Many of these trade workers were unemployed for years following the economic downturn in 2008.  Today, they are earning good wages to support their families and buying goods in their local communities.  You can meet a couple of these impressive construction workers by viewing this video.

The Ivanpah project is also estimated to generate approximately $300 million in local and state tax revenues over its 30-year life.  The wages and taxes generated at Ivanpah only represent the project’s direct economic benefits.  The indirect benefits to local businesses are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.  The Ivanpah project also takes pride in supporting the local community by contributing to High Desert universities and philanthropic organizations, supporting job training opportunities, youth organizations, veteran’s services and more.

As a solar developer, we understand that our projects will have impacts on local infrastructure, such as roads and emergency services.  This is why we work closely with local leaders to better understand our impacts, identify ways to minimize them wherever possible and fairly mitigate the county for impacts that cannot be avoided.  We took this approach in San Bernardino County when developing the Ivanpah project and we’re currently engaged in similar discussions in other counties for future projects.

The LA Times highlights one such project – Hidden Hills Solar in Inyo County – where we are currently working with local leaders.  The story points out that just five percent of the construction jobs at Hidden Hills would be filled by Inyo County residents.  Yet the story ignores the fact that the primary reason that five percent of the construction workers come from Inyo County is because it has a small population.  According to the most recent census, Inyo County has 18,000 residents.  Compare this with the two million residents in San Bernardino County where Ivanpah is being built.

In fact, according to an independent socioeconomic and fiscal analysis report created for the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff, “Due to extraordinarily high unemployment rates within Inyo County, particularly in the construction trades, it is reasonable to assume that the local labor force will be able to supply all available positions.”  In other words, the project could put all of the county’s unemployed qualified construction workers back to work.

The story also accepts Inyo County’s claim that the project would cost the county $11-12 million during the 30-month construction phase and an additional $2 million a year in public safety and other services, completely ignoring the independent CEC report.  Again, the independent analysis counters these claims and highlights the significant economic benefits of these projects.

The independent report looks at two scenarios – Inyo County’s analysis and its own third-party analysis.  Scenario 1 applies the county’s analysis of $11-12 million impacts during construction and $1.2 million in annual operations, while Scenario 2 applies the independent report’s analysis of $2.7 million in costs during construction and $390,000 in annual operations.  In both scenarios, the net fiscal impacts are significantly beneficial to the county.  Scenario 1 results in a positive net fiscal impact of $61.1 million and Scenario 2 leads to a positive net fiscal impact of $88.2 million.

The bottom line: these projects are providing tens of millions of dollars in positive fiscal benefits to the counties where they are built.  Whether one uses data provided by the county, a solar company or an independent party, the projects are creating jobs, leading to direct investments, indirect spending and tax revenues for the counties.  To argue otherwise ignores the facts and creates false perceptions regarding one of our nation’s fastest growing industries.

Original Article on BrightSource Energy Blog

BrightSource, Alstom Win Israei Solar Thermal Plant Project

Megalim Solar Power Ltd. (“Megalim”) – a special purpose company formed by BrightSource Energy and Alstom – was informed today by Israel’s inter-ministerial Tender Committee that it won the bid for the construction of a 121 megawatt solar thermal power plant.

The 121 megawatt BrightSource-Alstom Megalim plant, one of three projects selected under Israel’s Ashalim 250 megawatt total solar tender, will be located in the Ramat Negev Regional Council 3.15 square kilometer site in the Negev Desert. Megalim will now be required to plan, finance, build, operate and maintain the power plant throughout a concession period of 25 years and then transfer ownership to the State of Israel. The project is scheduled to come online in 2017.

In jointly announcing the Ashalim tender win, Israel’s Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Energy and Water noted: “The principal advantage of [BrightSource’s] solar thermal technology is its high reliability which enables it to constitute a real substitute to conventional power plants which consume fossil fuels, as opposed to some other renewable energy technologies.”

Announced in 2008, the Ashalim tender includes two CSP plants and one photovoltaic technology power plant.  Once all three Ashalim projects are financed and constructed they will generate approximately 2% of Israel’s installed capacity, and help Israel achieve its goal of having 10 percent of its electricity production from renewable energy sources by 2020.

The Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance, Ms Michal Abadi-Boyanjo, congratulated the parties and the government on the award and noted that, “the construction of solar thermal plant in Ashalim will be another important step towards the implementation of the governmental targets for the production of electricity from renewable resources, while leveraging the creativity and innovativeness of the private sector, as reflected in the tenders promoted by the Accountant General Department”

Original Article on BrightSource Energy Blog