Weekly Intelligence Brief: August 18 - 25

This week’s CSP Today news brief includes the following companies and organisations: BrightSource Energy, NRG, Google; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, California Energy Commission; Palen Solar Holdings.

BrightSource: “We are committed to minimising avian impacts”

Solar thermal technology specialist BrightSource Energy has reacted to all the discussion around solar flux and adverse impact on avian species owing to its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). The team stated that it is committed to minimising avian impact at its facilities.

Ivanpah is a joint effort between NRG, Google, and BrightSource Energy.

The Oakland, California-based company did acknowledge that concentrated solar flux can adversely impact birds. But BrightSource asserted that heat flux is not interchangeable with solar flux, and “conflation of heat flux with solar flux has resulted in errors and misunderstandings regarding estimates of avian impacts due to flux created with BrightSource’s technology”. The company also mentioned that as of now there isn’t any scientific proof that birds are “vaporized” after travelling through solar flux.

The company also highlighted that there is a need to remember the “man-made causes” of bird deaths. BrightSource underlined that an estimated of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds are killed each year by cats; 980 million birds crash into buildings every year, and 174 million birds die from power lines annually.

Ivanpah reported 321 avian fatalities in the first six months of this year, of which 133 were related to solar flux.

NRG Energy defends operations at Ivanpah

US-based electricity producer NRG Energy has stated that it has been working with U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission since Ivanpah was being built, and none of these agencies have asked that operations at Ivanpah be halted. The company shared the same as it responded to a report filed by the AP.

NRG, which has more than 2,000 MW of PV and solar thermal projects in operation, under construction or in development, also clarified that a news report erroneously reported that birds at the Ivanpah solar facility were falling from the sky every two minutes. In fact, NRG challenged the report and pointed out that if the reported figures pertaining to frequency were correct then there would be over 100,000 documented avian fatalities at Ivanpah since February this year.

“Media outlet representatives visited Ivanpah on Wednesday, August 13th, so they could report about the efforts first-hand, and they did not witness a single bird being affected,” stated NRG.

NRG mentioned that the team is constantly looking at improvements, including the use of humane avian deterrent systems similar to those employed by airports to bring down avian activity at the facility. Some of the ways this is done features the use of anti-perching devices, and screening and sonic deterrent methods.

AP in news for its report featuring Ivanpah

A recent report filed by The Associated Press pertaining to discussing avian mortality and the extent to which solar power facilities, especially Ivanpah is contributing, has become a contentious issue over the past few days.

The report has indicated, for instance, that there is a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays and they are called streamers. More importantly, it has been reported that federal wildlife investigators visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and observed mortality, reporting an average of “one streamer every two minutes”. It was also covered that the investigators “want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed”.

For their part, NRG and BrightSource Energy have clarified their stance, and mentioned that no agencies have asked that operations at Ivanpah be halted.

Plans for Palen Solar project expected to do well

The decision by Palen Solar Holdings (PSH), a joint venture of BrightSource Energy and Abengoa, to amend the Palen Solar Electric Generating System (PSEGS) is expected to work in its favour.

As per the information available, PSH has proposed to add storage as a Condition of Certification, under which the entity would not commence construction of the second of Palen’s two CSP units until it has filed an amendment and received approval to incorporate thermal energy storage in the second unit. The proposed project consists of two 250-MW solar plants. It is located about 10 miles east of Desert Centre, halfway between Indio and Blythe, in eastern Riverside County.

As highlighted by CSP Today last week, the new plan is expected to work well considering the extensive permitting process.

The amended new schedule is expected to give the California Energy Commission time to get accustomed with CSP power towers and storage, and allow PSH to go ahead with the first 250MW unit.