Good News for Solar Thermal: $1.37B in Loan Guarantees to BrightSource Energy for 400 MW

brightsource solar thermal power photo
Photo: Brightsource Energy
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Hasn't Run Dry Yet
It seems like the Department of Energy (DOE) and Steven Chu aren't done handing out loan guarantees (which people too often confuse with actual loans). A week ago it was for two nuclear power plants, and this week it is for 400 megawatts of solar thermal in the Mojave desert. brightsource solar thermal power photo
Photo: Brightsource Energy
Three Solar Farms
The loan guarantees will help finance the construction of three solar thermal plants (they use mirrors to concentrate sunlight, and with that heat they produce steam to generate electricity). "The three-plant Ivanpah Solar Complex will be located on federally-owned land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California, near the Nevada border, and will be the world's largest operational concentrated solar power complex. Once operational, the project will supply clean electric power to approximately 140,000 California homes."

BrightSource had been working on these projects for a while.

The first plant is expected to begin construction in the second half of 2010 and come on line in 2012. Commercial operation for the second plant is slated for mid-2013 and the third later in 2013.

Nothing in the announcement mentions storage, so it is probably safe to assume that this won't be part of those projects. This is not necessarily a bad thing; there are pros and cons to adding storage to solar thermal. An obvious benefit is that it allows the plant to produce power at night and on cloudy days, but this comes at the price of some efficiency and a reduced output during the day (the heat that you store can't be used to generate electricity).

What I'd really like to know is the projected capacity factor for those solar farms. Capacity is about 400 MW, but they won't produce that amount at all time (just like a 1 MW wind turbine doesn't produce 1 MW of electricity on average).

Via DOE, BrightSource Energy
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Tags: Alternative Energy | Solar Power


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