SCE still holds CPUC-approved PPAs for electricity to be generated by BrightSource’s 790 MW Sonoran West CSP project, which is also located in Southern California.

BrightSource Energy, which had called its planned 500-megawatt Rio Mesa concentrating solar project a crucial step in developing reliable solar power generation, now says it’s putting that project on hold.

Citing mounting obstacles to the project, the company has backed out of a controversial contract to sell energy from the plant to Southern California Edison (SCE), and says it will be focusing its efforts on the nearby proposed Palen Solar Power plant in Riverside County.

Southern California Edison (SCE, Rosemead, California, US) and BrightSource Energy Inc. (Oakland, California, US) have mutually terminated a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the second 250 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in BrightSource’s Rio Mesa project.

The project, proposed for 4,070 acres of open desert south of Blythe, would have generated a maximum of 500 megawatts of electrical power by way of two 250-megawatt steam turbines mounted atop 750-foot towers. Each tower would have been surrounded by tens of thousands of mirrored heliostats which would have focused solar energy on the turbines’ boilers.

The CSP project is located near Blythe in Riverside County, Southern California. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) previously rejected a PPA for the first 250 MW plant in the Rio Mesa project, and BrightSource has suspended permit applications for the plant.

"After more than a year of permitting review, there remained a number of areas at the Rio Mesa site which required additional analysis," BrightSource told Solar Server.

"Adequately addressing the concerns in coordination with the California Energy Commission (CEC) and US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would have a significant timing impact to the Rio Mesa project, most notably the request by CEC staff for a minimum four month schedule extension and delay."

"The inability to resolve the concerns in a timely manner led us to conclude that we could no longer meet the commercial terms of our PPA with Southern California Edison at the Rio Mesa project site."

Additionally, BrightSource states that it is moving forward with the Palen project, which it acquired from Solar Millennium AG (Erlangen, Germany) in August 2012. In December 2012, the company petitioned to change the project from a parabolic trough design to a solar power tower design.

BrightSource notes that the Palen project has already received permitting approval from the California Energy Commission, and is located within one of the Solar Energy Zones established by the BLM through its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.