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Review of 750MW BrightSource project advances in California

BrightSource Energy’s proposed 750MW Rio Mesa solar power tower project has been accepted for review by the California Energy Commission.

The commission found the company’s application to be “data adequate”, clearing the way to for formal review.

The project in Riverside County, California, would consist of three 250MW power tower plants. The output of at least two of these is contracted to Southern California Edison.

Rio Mesa would employ the taller, 750-foot (229m) towers that BrightSource plans at Hidden Hills, allowing greater energy output on a smaller piece of land.

The project would occupy 5,750 acres (23.3sq km) near Blythe, most of which are owned by the Metropolitan Water District. Some is owned by the Bureau of Land Management, meaning the project will require review at the federal level as well.

BrightSource says the parcel has been disturbed in the past. It was a military training area during the World War Two and was once identified as a site for a nuclear power plant.

The project is one of four BrightSource has in California: the 29MW (thermal equivalent) enhanced oil recovery project at a Chevron oil field in Coalinga; the 392MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, under construction near the Nevada border; and the 500MW Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System, accepted for CEC review earlier this year.

One of the central receiver towers at Ivanpah, under construction for more than a year, is nearly complete. Workers have begun assembling heliostats and installing them on the roughly 40,000 pylons encircling the tower. (There will be more than 50,000 pylons in each of the three mirror fields.) At the project's second unit, work continues on the tower erection and crews are installing pylons. The tower foundation at the third unit is almost ready to pour, the company says.

Specialized heliostat assembly equipment is being commissioned in a dedicated building in the project's common area. In 2012, BrightSource says, "we anticipate hundreds of heliostats will be assembled and installed each day".

Some 950 workers were on the job in November.