Sun & Wind Energy 1/2008

Before 2005, everyone was saying, forget solar, it’s too expensive, says Paul O’Hop, a partner with the international law firm Squire, Sanders and Dempsey, which specializes in renewable energy. For many years, only non CSP the so called Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS) plants – located in California and built by Luz international – were up and running. The owners went bankrupt and in early 2005, FPL Energy of Florida, one of the leading clean energy providers in the U.S., purchased a stake in some of the plants, becoming the largest operator of CSP in the U.S. with 310 MW.

And then came the big surprise. In August 2005, the project developer Stirling Energy System, Inc (SES), based in Arizona, announced that it has signed an agreement with the electric utility Southern California Edison (SCE) that would result in construction of a 4,500 acc (1,821) hectare) CSP station in southern California that would become the world’s largest solar facility, with a capacity of 500 MW, expandable to 850 MW. This was huge. It shook up the market to have a company like Stirling doing a big CSP project. Once you start doing big projects, there are economies of scale, O’Hop says. About the same time, the California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced that it had signed an agreement with Solel-MSP-1, a subsidiary of Israel-based Solel Solar Systems Ltd., to purchase 533 MW of solar power from the Mojave Solar Park. The year 2005 we saw a big step up, O’Hop adds.