1,300 Megawatts of Solar Thermal Power to be Developed in Mojave Desert by BrightSource Energy

solar thermal power plant mirror image

In this sort of solar thermal power plant light is reflected off of mirrors and onto a boiler atop a central tower. This in turn drives a turbine to produce electricity. Image: BrightSource Energy

Though many large scale solar projects are bobbing in the financial doldrums at the moment, here’s one that isn’t. And it’s huge: Southern California Edison and BrightSource Energy have announced that they have signed a series of contracts to develop 1,300 MW of solar thermal power over seven separate projects. They will require approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, but assuming that is received, this is at least what the first of the projects is all about:100 MW Plant Should Start Construction This Year
Located in Ivanpah, California (out in the Mojave Desert) the first power plant will be 100 MW in size. Assuming regulatory approval is reached, construction should begin late this year and the plant should start producing electricity in 2013. When fulling operating it is expected to produce 286,000 MWh of electricity annually.

solar thermal power tower image

How Solar Thermal is Different Than Solar PV
The plant will use BrightSource’s Luz Power Tower 550 solar thermal energy system. In case you’re unfamiliar with solar thermal power, SCE describes how this type of system works:
The system uses thousands of small mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a boiler atop a tower to produce high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine which generates electricity. In order to conserve precious desert water, the LPT 550 system uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water. The water is then returned to the boiler in an environmentally-friendly closed cycle. This fully integrated energy system is designed to offer the highest operating efficiencies and lowest capital costs in the industry.

The financial terms of either the Ivanpah plant, or the deal as a whole have not been released.

via: Renewable Energy World, New York Times
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