The world’s largest ever solar project, the Ivanpah Project in California, truly is the first of its kind.
Funded by various groups, including Google and NRG, much of the finance has come from clean energy loan guarantees provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, totalling a vast $1.6 billion toward BrightSource Energy’s project.
The technology is different than usual solar projects- a field of mirrors, called heliostats, concentrate the sun’s rays onto a receiver on top of a ‘power tower’, which generates steam to turn a turbine. The power tower is highly efficient, the solar energy can generate steam of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit (537 C).
When completed the farm will be able to power 140,000 homes with a 392 MW facility set on 3,600 acres.
The Ivanpah Power Tower will be approximately 450 feet tall and will use 173,000 heliostats, each with two mirrors. Construction began in October 2010 and is projected to finish in 2013.
NRG Energy, the lead investors, have committed $300 million to the project. David Crane, President and CEO of NRG Energy said:
“Ivanpah is a glowing example of truly sustainable energy, a project that all at once will ensure cleaner air, help in the fight against climate change, drive down the cost of large scale concentrating solar technology and take California one giant step closer toward its goal of producing 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.”
Internet giant Google has invested $168 million in the project, making their total investments in the clean energy sector of $250 million.
The power generated from these solar plants will be sold under separate contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison.
BrightSource say that over the farm’s lifetime it has the potential to save 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions