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Hidden Hills project on hold

April 6, 2013

Less than a month after reaching an agreement with Inyo County to mitigate impacts to services created by the Hidden Hills Solar Project, the proponent, BrightSource Energy, Inc., has pulled its permit application and put the project on hiatus.

BrightSource announced this week that it has withdrawn its application for the 250 megawatt, 3,280-acre project proposed in southeast Inyo County, citing “challenges associated with the project schedule and uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades.”

To solve the transmission issue and move forward with the project, BrightSource would be required to change and re-submit its application, which would mean re-opening the comment period and reconsidering potential project impacts.

According to BrightSource, “Hidden Hills is a good site to deploy solar thermal with storage technology. However, such a change would require an amendment to the permit application and the reopening of the evidentiary record to account for impacts associated with a new project footprint, including layout of the solar field, storage equipment and reconfiguration of the power blocks.”

BrightSource said revisiting those discussions could be an expensive and time consuming endeavor and the company would rather focus its attention on other projects that have already been permitted.

“The (California Energy Commission) is at the point of undertaking a significant effort to prepare and review briefs based on the project’s current configuration,” BrightSource said in a statement. “Suspending the application avoids unnecessary time and expense on the part of all parties in the permitting process.”

Last month, and after more than a year of negotiations, the Board of Supervisors signed a contract with BrightSource that will require the solar company to provide the county with $15 million, including a $2.5 million payment when construction on the Hidden Hills Solar project begins, to pay for county costs associated with the project.

That contract is contingent on Hidden Hills moving forward.

“The county has been supportive of solar development and I’m disappointed that they’ve suspended their application,” said Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley, whose district includes the property proposed for the project.

Bishop Planning Director Josh Hart, who has been working directly with BrightSource on the county’s behalf, was unavailable for comment as of press time Friday.

For more information on the status of the Hidden Hills Solar project, see The Inyo Register next week.

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