Posted on February 14, 2014

World’s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Project Flips Switch

By Lynsey Paulo

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY — The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located in the California Mojave Desert about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, was officially dedicated on Thursday (Feb. 13).

The three units at Ivanpah will generate enough energy to power 140,000 homes. (Photo by BrightSource Energy.)

PG&E is purchasing clean, renewable energy from Ivanpah Units 1 and 3 under two long-term contracts. Electricity generated by the two units is enough to power about 95,000 average customer homes. PG&E’s Fong Wan attended the dedication ceremonies.

The plant is a joint effort between NRG Energy, Inc., BrightSource Energy and Google. It accounts for nearly 30 percent of all solar thermal energy currently operational in the United States and is the largest solar project of its kind in the world.

“PG&E congratulates Solar Partners for their hard work and accomplishments bringing Ivanpah online,” said Wan, senior vice president of energy procurement. “We are well on our way to meeting the state’s ambitious renewable energy mandate of delivering a third of the electricity we provide to our customers from eligible renewable resources, and Ivanpah will help us meet that goal.”

The facility has been online and delivering energy to customers in California since last fall when it was first connected to the grid. On Thursday, the project was officially dedicated with a celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony including U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Moniz commented on the warm and sunny weather the day of the dedication.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz greets Fong Wan, a PG&E senior vice president, at the Ivanpah event. (Photo by Lynsey Paulo.)

“This is a great site for solar thermal,” said Moniz.

He also thanked the developers, and PG&E and Southern California Edison, the two utilities purchasing the power for their customers, for making the project possible.

“This is a public-private partnership of incredible complexity. We all worked together, we all did our part. This is a great day,” said Moniz.

The facility stretches across five miles of federal lands and uses technology known as solar thermal, which is different than the more familiar photovoltaic solar technology. Ivanpah utilizes 173,000 heliostats, each the size of a garage door, to reflect sunlight to boilers on top of three 450-foot high towers. The sun’s power heats water in the boilers’ tubes and makes steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity, much like a conventional power plant but using the sun’s rays as fuel.

The plant’s three units can produce a gross total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power, enough electricity to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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