Full steam ahead for BrightSource Energy

BrightSource Energy Inc., headquartered in Oakland, Calif., designs, develops, and sells solar thermal power systems that deliver clean energy to utilities and industrial companies.

BrightSource’s technology uses the sun’s energy to create the world’s highest-temperature and highest-pressure steam, which is used to produce electricity. The company’s utility customers include Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

BrightSource’s first power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located in California’s Mojave Desert near the Nevada border, will create about 1,400 jobs at the peak of construction, with an average of 650 jobs annually over the three-year construction period, and 86 permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

Jobs include crane operators, factory workers, concrete pourers, and panel installers. Preliminary estimates based on the plant’s first 30 years of operation are that the project will generate $650 million in employee wages and earnings.

As of May 2013, the project was 92 percent complete.

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The plant uses 170,000 mirrors that redirect and concentrate the sun’s energy in boilers that create superheated steam, which is then piped from the boilers to electricity-generating turbines. The plant is expected to generate enough electricity to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during peak demand and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year.

BrightSource is also developing a 500-megawatt project in California’s Riverside County, which the company expects to create more than 2,000 jobs. This project, called the Palen Solar Electric Generating System, is being developed jointly with Spanish company Abengoa. The project will produce enough electricity to power 200,000 homes, and it is expected to be completed in 2016.

BrightSource Energy has approximately 1,800 MW of power under contract. A private company, its investors include Vantage Point Capital Partners, Alstom, Morgan Stanley, and Draper Fisher Jurveston.

— Environmental Entrepreneurs

Photo credits: BrightSource Energy