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Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will be world's largest solar power tower plant

Google announced yesterday that it has invested a large sum of money into a new solar energy power tower plant that will be located in the Mojave Desert in California. 

Google is catching a lot of heat lately between the FTC's possible antitrust investigation into the web search giant's internet dominance and Microsoft's problem with Google's "misleading security claims to the government." But with this latest project, Google is investing in a project that is sure to have some positive reviews.

The project is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), and Google has invested $168 million toward the cause. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which is being developed by BrightSource Energy, is 450 feet tall and began construction in October 2010 by the engineering firm Bechtel. It will be the world's largest solar power tower plant. 

"We need smart capital to transform our energy sector and build a clean energy future," said The Official Google Blog. "This is our largest investment to date, and we've now invested over $250 million in the clean energy sector [total]. We're excited about Ivanpah because our investment will help deploy a compelling solar energy technology that provides reliable clean energy, with the potential to significantly reduce costs on future projects."

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is expected to generate 392 gross megawatts of solar energy, and will have a lifespan of about 25 years. This amount of solar energy produced is like taking 90,000 cars of the road over the plant's lifetime.  

This new system works by using 173,000 heliostats, which are mirrors that focus the sun's rays onto a solar receiver, which is located at the top of a tower. These mirrors pack a large amount of solar energy into one small area. The solar receiver then generates steam that spins a turbine and generator to create electricity. The steam is produced at high pressure and a high temperature of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.  

The project is expected to be completed in 2013, and will be funded by clean energy technology guarantees offered by the U.S. Department of Energy and by NRG. 

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By HueyD on 4/13/2011 8:50:53 AM , Rating: 2
By HueyD on 4/13/2011 9:04:21 AM , Rating: 5
There are three phases. Two 100MW stations, each 850 acres and the final phase is one 200MW station that needs 1600 acres.
3300 acres total.

It uses natural gas to power the boiler in the morning or during cloudy days.

It's the desert so I guess it makes sense to use it in this way. But this would not be practical anywhere else.

Nuclear is still much more efficient and cost effective.

By SilentSin on 4/13/2011 9:52:45 AM , Rating: 1
Wonder why they didn't go with a molten salt design: Using natural gas as a supplemental thermal source during sub optimal light conditions seems silly, and it can't work after dusk whatsoever.

By quiksilvr on 4/13/2011 10:00:15 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear is indeed the better solution but no one wants to put up with the endless safety precautions and public perception.

Solar is the quicker solution and projects like this helps on improving the technology.

By SPOOFE on 4/13/2011 6:00:36 PM , Rating: 2
It's the desert so I guess it makes sense to use it in this way. But this would not be practical anywhere else.

Talk about your understatements; there's an awful lot of desert out there, and short of massive irrigation projects or mining (if there's anything to mine), there's not much else to do with it.

By stromgald30 on 4/13/2011 7:09:47 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Much more cost and space efficient.

392 MW sounds like a lot until you look at the total energy production of the US, which is around 450,000 MW. This effort by Google will produce less than 0.1% of the total US energy production, but I'm sure they'll tell you how impactful this will be (i.e. almost doubling solar capacity in the U.S.)

The sobering reality environmentalists don't always recognize is that building solar power to replace coal/oil is like trying to move Mount Everest with a common construction bulldozer. It can be done, but there are a lot of better/faster ways to do the job.

By Howard on 4/14/2011 2:33:14 AM , Rating: 2
It's about 2% of the total generation in California, which seems to me to be a figure a little more important. Nuclear would be difficult too, since there's little access in a desert to plentiful cooling water.

By SPOOFE on 4/16/2011 5:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
Considering the lack of elasticity in electricity demand, even a small fraction of a percent can make a big difference.

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