Largest Solar Thermal Plant "Ivanpah" Goes Live Commercially
February 13, 2014 2:43 PM
Ivanpah is located near the California-Nevada border, about 45 miles southwest of Las Vegas
Solar just got a major boost as the world’s largest solar thermal power project officially opened today.
, which co-owns the new complex along with Google and BrightSource Energy, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will begin commercial operation today, although it started generating electricity last year.
Ivanpah is located near the California-Nevada border, about 45 miles southwest of Las Vegas. It's a $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, which together are capable of producing nearly 400 megawatts -- enough to power 140,000 homes.
Sporting the tagline "world’s largest solar thermal power project," Ivanpah is five square miles of nearly 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors, which are about the size of a garage door each. They reflect sunlight to boilers at the top of 459-foot towers, where the sun heats water in the boilers' tubes and make steam. This steam then drives turbines to generate electricity.
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System
What's more is that this particular area receives a lot of sunshine most of the year, and it's close to transmission lines, which send power to consumers.
“Cleantech innovations such as Ivanpah are critical to establishing America’s leadership in large-scale, clean-energy technology that will keep our economy globally competitive over the next several decades,” said Tom Doyle, president, NRG Solar.
“We see Ivanpah changing the energy landscape by proving that utility-scale solar is not only possible, but incredibly beneficial to both the economy and in how we produce and consume energy. Whether it’s partnering, developing or investing, NRG will continue to provide a diverse set of solutions and technologies to get the U.S. to the ultimate goal of providing affordable, reliable clean energy for everyone.”
Google said in 2011 that it would
invest $168 million
in the project while BrightSource contributed $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System tower 1 and power block
This is a big deal for solar, as it presently accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation's power output. Obstacles like cost and environmental effects have largely slowed the adoption of solar.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration data said the cost of generating a megawatt-hour of power in a traditional coal plant is around $100, while it's around $261 for solar thermal power.
Environmentalists also worry that the amount of land needed to accommodate solar farms may negatively affect animals and plants that reside there. In the case of Ivanpah, coyotes, tortoises and plants like milkweed are indigenous to the area.
Ivanpah had to go through years of regulatory and legal battles concerning environmental concerns before its opening.
"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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