The L.A. Business Journal reports that Southern California Edison has inked a 20-year deal with Google-backed BrightSource Energy that could see Edison provide 1,300 megawatts of solar power to seven projects supervised by the Oakland-based startup company. The LABJ quotes both companies as claiming the agreement, which is subject to Public Utilities Commission approval, is the world's largest solar pact. The announcement sent SoCal Ed shares up 1.5 percent.) An Edison press release trumpeted the deal as providing the equivalent of 3.7 billion kilowatt-hours -- enough electricity to power 845,000 homes. The project involves using solar mirrors to super-heat water, using the resulting steam to generate electricity.
However, the technique has its critics. One of BrightSource's projects involves spreading solar mirrors across 4000 acres of Ivanpah Valley in the Mojave Desert. There is concern that the mirrors might blind aircraft pilots, especially if a plan goes through to build another airport to serve nearby Las Vegas. BrightSource has also tried to calm fears that the mirrors might ignite fires and claims the company will clear the ground of low-lying brush.
That, however, alarms environmentalists, who say such a clearing will
result in soil erosion and deprive eagles, badgers and tortoises of
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their native habitat. A recent Salon.com article
noted that BrightSource has some powerful investors, such as Vantage Point Venture Partners, whose advisors include
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and former state environmental protection
secretary Terry Tamminen.