California solar project may change hands

Monday, June 25, 2012

Solar energy developer BrightSource Energy Inc. has announced that it submitted the winning bid to acquire a proposed 500 megawatt solar thermal project from bankrupt developer Solar Trust of America LLC.

Solar Trust, a joint venture of German companies Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal Inc., had proposed several large solar projects in the California desert, including the 1,000 MW Blythe project and the 500 MW Palen Solar Project.  Both were proposed as solar thermal projects, although the developer had expressed some interest in converting them to solar photovoltaic technology.  But Solar Trust's operations hit a series of roadblocks, including the bankruptcy of its parent Solar Millennium AG in March 2012; after Solar Trust was unsuccessful in selling its portfolio of projects this past spring, Solar Trust filed for bankruptcy itself.

Now, BrightSource has confirmed that it won an auction for rights to the Palen project.  The sale is subject to approval by the bankruptcy court, but filings in Solar Trust's bankruptcy case suggest BrightSource agreed to pay at least $10 million for the project, plus a reimbursement to Solar Trust for the project's interconnection costs.  If the project is up and running before the end of 2014, BrightSource would pay up to $20 million more. 

BrightSource is also developing the Ivanpah solar project in California's Mojave Desert.  As at Ivanpah, for the Palen project BrightSource reportedly intends to stick to a concentrated solar thermal project design, using BrightSource's "power tower" technology.

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