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No Sunny Skies for Two Solar Projects in Texas, California

solarpanels5Two major solar projects are at a standstill; one over contract renewals and the other due to environmental concerns. Meanwhile, New York lawmakers are making it easier for businesses and homeowners to install solar systems and makeenergy-efficiency improvements.

NRG Energy’s plan to build Texas’ largest solar plant near its natural gas plant has halted over contract renewals, reports The Dallas Morning News. The city of Houston had agreed to buy all the power the plant produces for the next 25 years but the city wants to renew the contract annually rather than a 25-year agreement, according to the newspaper.

NRG officials say investors want assurance that it has a firm 25-year customer, reports the Dallas newspaper.

NRG, a New Jersey company that operates power plants in Texas, had planned to spend $40 million to build a 10-megawatt solar plant that was scheduled to go online in the second quarter of 2010, according to The Dallas Morning News.

A solar project in San Bernardino County is also faced with a no-go but in this case it is due to environmental concerns. San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt is opposed to a solar energy project set on public land in the Mojave Desert telling the Los Angeles Times that it would create jobs mostly for Las Vegas and electricity for San Francisco at the expense of relatively untouched land east San Bernardino County.

In addition, conservationists are concerned with the impact of the solar plant on several rare bat, bird, plant and reptile species, including the threatened California desert tortoise, according to the article.

The proposed BrightSource 440-megawatt, 4,000-acre Solar Electric Generating System is one of 130 renewable energy applications to build wind and solar projects on more than a million acres of public land under review by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and California Energy Commission.

BrightSource spokesman Keely Wachs told the Los Angeles Times that the project has already gone through a state and federal environmental review process for more than two years. Wachs also noted that the project will generate 1,000 jobs, $250 million in wages and more than $400 million in local and state tax revenue.

On the other side of the country, New York State lawmakers passed legislation allowing municipal loan programs for homeowners and businesses that want to install solar systems or make energy efficiency improvements, reports the Vote Solar Initiative. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing will allow homeowners and business to make these clean energy upgrades without any upfront costs, according to the organization.

The federal government has also awarded $454 million in Recovery Act funds to support the PACE program. The deadline for municipalities to apply for federal PACE funds is December 14, 2009.

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2 thoughts on “No Sunny Skies for Two Solar Projects in Texas, California

  1. the city of Houston would be wise to sign the 25 year contract … if not for 25 years … then at least 10 years … a Great Opportunity for the city of Houston to invest in the Sun

  2. Thank you for your continued coverage of these important issues. As Sr. Director of Communications for BrightSource Energy, I would like to make it clear that this project is moving forward and is in no way facing a “no-go” as written in the story. In fact, the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Land Management issued a draft environmental impact statement two weeks ago, which marks a key milestone in the permitting of this facility.

    In addition, the BLM recently named the Ivanpah project as one of six fast-tracked as a priority.

    With any development, there are some environmental concerns associated with the project. We are working with these agencies and the environmental community to address these issues.

    In terms of our environmental efforts, Ivanpah will avoid more than 13 million tons of CO2 emissions over its 30-year lifecycle, as well as 85 percent of the air emissions from an equally-sized natural gas plant. The plants will employ dry-cooling, which will reduce water usage by 90 percent, allowing Ivanpah to use approximately 30 times less water than competing technologies using wet cooling. The project will use roughly 100 acre feet of water – the equivalent of 300 homes’ annual water usage, and far less than the amount used by the adjacent golf course or nearby casinos. While dry-cooling comes at an additional cost, we believe that this proven technology must be used to help conserve precious desert water.

    Ivanpah’s environmental considerations to reduce development impacts also include a low-impact design and use of a currently-used high-voltage transmission pathway that transects the site. The low impact design utilizes BrightSource’s proprietary hanging heliostats, which minimize the need for grading and concrete pads required for competing technologies.

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