Three years ago California regulators in quick succession approved nine multibillion-dollar solar thermal power plants. They were to be built in the desert and would generate 4,142 megawatts (MW) of carbon-free electricity. The state, it was said, was on its way to becoming the Saudi Arabia of solar.
Not any more. Today, the developers of four of those projects have since gone bankrupt and only three solar thermal power plants are under currently under construction.
In recent weeks, BrightSource Energy put on hold two new solar thermal power plants that would have generated an additional 1,000 MW. (It’s 370 MW Ivanpah project, however, is set to go online this year.) And last week, the builder of what would be the world’s largest solar station at 1,000 MW—at peak output that’s equivalent to a big nuclear power plant—downsized the project to 485 MW.