BrightSource Energy, the US-based developer of utility scale solar power plants, has started construction on its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on a 3,500 acre site in California. When constructed, Ivanpah will be the world’s largest solar power plant.
Once completed the 392 megawatt gross (370 megawatts nominal) Ivanpah project will nearly double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the US. The plant will produce enough clean energy to power 140,000 homes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking more than 70,000 cars off the road.
BrightSource has received a conditional commitment from the US Department of Energy for $1.37 billion in loan guarantees to support the financing of the Ivanpah project. Power generation company NRG Energy is taking the largest ownership stake in the project by making an investment of up to $300 million. With this equity position, NRG will join BrightSource in the construction, ownership, and operation of Ivanpah.
BrightSource’s proprietary LPT technology enables the company to employ a low-impact environmental design. Instead of the extensive land grading and concrete pads used by other competing solar technologies, BrightSource mounts mirrors on individual poles that are placed directly into the ground, allowing the solar field to be built around the natural contours of the land and avoid areas of sensitive vegetation. This design also allows for vegetation to co-exist within the solar field.
In order to conserve precious desert water, the Ivanpah project will employ an air-cooling system to convert the steam back into water in a closed-loop cycle. By using air-cooling, the project will use only 100 acre feet of water per year, approximately 95% less water than competing solar thermal technologies that use wet-cooling.
“At Ivanpah, we’re demonstrating that the US can lead in the clean energy race by building the largest solar plant in the world,” says John Woolard, president and chief executive of BrightSource Energy.