Monday, September 6, 2010

Tessera Solar Pulls Out of West Texas/DG Cheaper

UPDATE from Bill Powers:
The public utility of San Antonio, CPS Energy, is substituting Tessera Solar's canceled 27 MW PPA with three 10 MW distributed PV arrays in/near San Antonio itself.  The published contract price for the 30 MW of distributed PV: $0.15/kWh, or $150/MWh. None of the solar thermal technologies can meet this price, and it is just going to get more favorable for PV as time goes on. Oct. 7, 2010. SNL Financial LC, DAILY DOSE, Power edition (subscription only) In the news CPS Energy is partnering with MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. subsidiary SunEdison LLC to develop three 10-MW solar photovoltaic power projects in its service area, the San Antonio Express-News reported, citing unnamed sources. An official announcement is imminent, the newspaper reported. CPS confirmed that it has agreed to purchase the output of the three separate ground-mounted projects for the next 25 years. Exact locations of the proposed projects have not been determined, the newspaper reported, adding that the projects are expected to enter operation by 2012. Sources told the newspaper that CPS will pay 15 cents per kWh for the electricity from the projects. The price is less than what the utility has agreed to pay for the output of Duke Energy Corp.'s 14-MW Blue Wing Solar project in Bexar County, Texas. The additional 30 MW of electricity from the proposed projects will replace the 27 MW of electricity CPS Energy had planned to buy from Tessera Solar North America Inc.'s planned Western Ranch Solar Project, the newspaper reported. Tessera Solar, a subsidiary of NTR plc, recently withdrew from the agreement due to lack of funding. _________________________________________________________________________________ Tessera Solar has withdrawn its proposal for a 27 MW, 800-acre development in the rural community of Marfa in West Texas.  According to reports, it was unable to obtain the financing needed for the project.  A London-based company with American headquarters in Houston, Tessera Solar is proposing to install 8,000 of the 40 foot high, mirrored Solar Dish Stirling SunCatcher's in a much larger 1,525-acre facility in the San Luis Valley, Colorado.  The project is currently under review for a 1041 permit in Saguache County.  According to Malinda Beeman, artist and resident of the tiny West Texas town of Marfa, Tessera had trouble finding land for the project and when they finally did strike a lease deal, it was only 1/2 mile from the Antelope Hills Subdivision where Beeman and others lived.  "At first we were excited about the solar project but as we learned more about the noise and visual impacts from the 40' high SunCatchers, and other problems with the technology, we began to have doubts", she said.
8,000 of these 40' tall SunCatchers are proposed in Saguache County, CO.
Beeman is one of hundreds of artists who settled in Marfa in the past 20 years, transforming the little town from a "boarded-up dot on the map" into a mecca for artists inspired by the desolate desert landscape. "A lot of promises were made", said Beeman.  When Tessera dropped a $2,500 donation on the local Chamber of Commerce in exchange for a letter of endorsement of the project, property owners balked.  In a letter to the Chamber, residents expressed concern about the "many questions left unanswered" about light pollution, noise from the engines, water use, road impacts, right of way access and the impacts of the 800-acre development on their property values.
Malinda Beeman displays a map of the area. Photo by Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune.
Beeman told Texas Tribune reporter Brandi Grissom, "The placement of this right here essentially is killing the subdivision", "People are going to build their little houses, they were going to add to the tax base, but now they see their property being worthless.  It's a horrible shock", she said. McDonald Observatory, only 20 miles from the proposed project, was also concerned about the impacts of lighting, needed for cleaning the 40' disks at night.
2.3 MW solar parking lot
Massive remote industrial solar developments are coming under increasing scrutiny as the public begins to understand that there are better alternatives.  Point of use, distributed installations on already utilized or severely degraded lands (of which there are plenty) is rapidly gaining ground as a cheaper, faster and less destructive approach to solar generation. Tessera Solar's Saguache County, Colorado proposal has also come under heavy criticism by the local ranching community and others who question the massive scale, reliability, noise, visual and watershed impacts from the project, seven times larger than the Texas facility would have been.
According to Randy Etheridge, development director for the Texas Tessera project, they applied for both state and federal grants as well as local county property tax incentives.  A report from the San Antonio Express News, said that Tessera Solar withdrew its power purchase agreement (PPA) with the West Texas utility CPS when it was unable to obtain financing for the project that was supposed to break ground this summer. Although CPS never disclosed the cost of the solar contract, chief sustainability officer Cris Eugster said "replacing the megawatts with a different solar project could be cheaper". The Tessera cancellation is “a setback, but not a huge loss,” said Lanny Sinkin, executive director of Solar San Antonio, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Solar is an industry like any other, with ups and downs. We understand CPS will move on to other ventures.”

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Intersting article. Makes me hope that Tessera doesn't have all the financing it needs here!

Zana

Anonymous said...

Zana,
Would you rather have the big oil and dirty energy companies win out with all there billions that destroy the environment and influence elected officials. Green energy will also reduce our dependence on foreign countries which sometimes lead to unnecessary wars. Lets move forward. this technology works. Its quiet and uses little water.

Anonymous said...

What are you basing your statement "the technology works" on? It's still an R&D technology. All Tessera has at this point is a 60-unit demonstration plant with hand built SunCatchers. With no federal backing the Texas project had to stand on its own two feet and it couldn't.
It also simply is not true that SunCatchers are "quiet". We've been down and stood next to the SunCatcher's ourselves. There is no way Tessera can stay within the counties noise limits of 10 decibels. Just because its being proposed and its a convenient site for industry doesn't make it a good idea. You need to research the alternatives and how solar can be done right.

Anonymous said...

check out the story in the New York Times Wednesday Nov. 17th titled `Concerns as solar installations join a desert ecosystem'