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Martifer withdraws hybrid solar-biomass plant application

Martifer Renewables Electricity is dropping plans for a 107MW hybrid concentrating solar power-biomass plant in California, citing project economics, among other issues.

The US renewables unit of the Portuguese energy company applied to the California Energy Commission (CEC) in November 2008 for permission to build San Joaquin Solar 1 and 2 in Fresno County. Also that year, the developer contracted to sell the plant’s expected annual output of 774,000MWh – suggesting a capacity factor above 80% – to giant California utility Pacific Gas & Electric under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

The idea was to generate a consistent, firm supply of electricity by using solar energy during the day, supplemented by biomass as necessary and biomass alone at night.

Those plans appear to have fallen through, at least for the time being, according to a letter from Martifer posted to the CEC’s Web site Tuesday.

“We were not able at this time to resolve some of our issues regarding project economics and biomass supply amongst other things,” the company says in the letter formally withdrawing its permit application.

The plant was to employ parabolic trough concentrating solar technology paired with a fluidized bed combustion system to burn an expected 408,000 tonnes a year of urban clippings and wood waste, tree trimmings, orchard wastes and other agricultural biomass.

A September 2008 study found more than enough local biomass available to support the needs of the twin power plants “with a very high degree of confidence”, according to Martifer’s application.

Martifer had estimated the total cost of the project to be $485m.

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