U.S. Company Shelves Solar Thermal Plant as Utility Cancels Contract

U.S.-based BrightSource Energy has shelved its second major solar thermal project this year as the company and Pacific Gas and Electric terminated the utility’s contract to buy power generated by the plant in south-central California. In an email, a BrightSource spokesman said the $2.9 billion Hidden Hills project, which would have been built in Inyo County near the Nevada border, was suspended due to “uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades,” Bloomberg News reports, although regulators’ environmental concerns also seemed to play a role. Like another project canceled by BrightSource earlier this year, the 500-megawatt Hidden Hills plant would have utilized thousands of mirrors reflecting sunlight onto central towers to produce steam. The California Energy Commission, which was reviewing the project, found last year that the solar installation would have “significant” environmental impacts, suggesting that the use of photovoltaic solar panels would be “environmentally superior.” Officials at BrightSource, which recently completed a solar thermal plant in the Mojave desert, disputed that analysis.