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BrightSource Energy

BrightSource was formed in 2004 and has received venture funding from Google, BP, Morgan Stanly, DBL, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Chevron, Statoil, and Black River. The company is headquartered in Oakland, California and focuses on designing, building, financing, and operating utility-scale solar thermal power plants.

BrightSource used concentrated solar technology to produce energy. Its proprietary system uses air rather than water for cooling, which reduces water use by more than 90% over conventional CSP systems. The projected 2.6 gigawatts of capacity the company is aiming to construct will result in 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide saving annually, not to mention the reduction in air pollutants, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and other volatile organics that are harmful to health.

Despite attempts to reduce land area use and thus site impact, CSP still takes up vast quantities of land. At present, BrightSource has been able to reduce land use in its projects by 33%.

IvanPah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS)

BrightSource has contracts to sell power from a total of seven solar power towers that will be located in the Mojave Desert. The plants are designed to have a capacity of 1.3 gigawatts when complete. The first 100 megawatt plant, part of the ISEGS, is due to come online by 2013. The total cost of the Ivanpah project is estimated at $2.2 billion.

Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC)

SEDC is a fully operational facility used for the demonstration of solar technology and for the testing of equipment, material, procedures, and construction methods. It is located in Israel’s Negev Desert. The facility produces 6 megawatts and is the world’s highest temperature and highest pressure solar system.

Hidden Hills

BrightSource has applied to develop two 250 megawatt plants in Inyo County California. If the project is approved, it will cover 3,280 acres of land, which is less than would be needed for an equivalent PV project, though more than needed for Compact Fresnel Lens systems. It will produce enough electricity for 178,000 homes at peak demand when completed in 2015. It is estimated that it will reduce carbon dioxide emission by 17 million tons over a 30 year span.

Rio Mesa

BrightSource has applied for certification to develop three 250 megawatt solar power plants in Riverside County, California.  The facility will cover 5,750 acres and generate electricity for 300,000 homes. It will save 20 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years and will generate approximately $1.1 billion in wages and $300 million in tax revenue over the same period. If approved, it will be complete in 2016.


This is a unique use of solar power. The system is being built in conjunction with Chevron Technology Ventures in order to create steam for enhanced oil recovery. The 29 megawatt solar-to-steam facility is being used to demonstrate the solar is a cost effective and less damaging way for enhanced oil recovery than other methods currently in use. Because up to 90% of any oil reserve is “heavy” or “extra-heavy” oil, this technology could help to ease oil shortages in the near future and add an estimated 241 billion barrels of recoverable oil to proven reserves.
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