World’s biggest solar power project becomes operational in US

Ivanpah produces 392 MW power; avoids emissions of 400,000 tonnes of CO2

By Ankur Paliwal
Published: Saturday 15 February 2014


The world’s largest solar thermal power project has started generating electricity. Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located in California, became operational on February 13. At full capacity, the plant produces a total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power. It is enough to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles from the road.

Ivanpah, which accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all solar thermal energy currently operational in the US, is the largest solar project of its kind in the world, reads the press statement issued by BrightSource Energy, a company which provided the technology for the project.

Ivanpah covers around five square miles of the Mojave desert in California. The plant has three 450-feet-tall towers surrounded by a total of 173,500 heliostats, mirrors that follow the sun’s trajectory and concentrates solar energy on boilers atop the towers where water is heated to produce steam which is used to turn turbines and produce electricity.

The project is the joint effort between NRG, a power generation company, and BrightSource Energy, the technology provider, and Google, which is the investor in the project. Bechtel was the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project. The project received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, reads the press statement. The total project cost was $2.2 billion.

“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,” he added.
Press reports indicate that the project may face hiccups in future. The plant has no electricity storage facility. The project developers say that they may do it later. It may also pose a threat to migratory birds that may get exposed to the concentrated solar radiation.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.