Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Brightsource pulls Rio Mesa permit application, leaving just one project underway in Riverside

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Solar developer Brightsource Energy has cancelled plans to build a large project in Riverside County. The move dims the developer's prospects for getting more solar power on the grid in California.

Rio Mesa was to be a 500-megawatt solar thermal development, with at least half the energy going to Southern California Edison. Brightsource had put Rio Mesa on pause in January, citing scheduling and transmission problems, but now the company has withdrawn its permit application with the state's Energy Commission.

The news comes after Brightsource froze its permit process for another site, Hidden Hills, in Inyo County. Brightsource and industry backers touted both projects as ideally situated on non-public land. But developers still faced tough questions from regulators and conservationists about valuable fossils found at Rio Mesa, and risks to wildlife at both locations.

The Oakland-based company has just one project remaining in active development — a joint venture in Riverside County called Palen. Regulators have asked for more information about technical issues at that location, too.

Brightsource is currently building the Ivanpah solar project in the Mojave Desert, said to be the largest solar plant under construction in the world. The plant will serve SoCal Edison.

The outlook for desert-based energy projects is less sunny these days: the Energy Commission's last approval for a large scale solar project was two years ago. 

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