Resembling something out of a movie, the Ivanpah Solar Thermal is the world’s largest solar power plant located in Ivanpah Dry Lake,
California’s Mojave Desert. Occupying approximately 3,500 acres (14.2km2) and grounded on BrightSource’s solar tower technology, the thermal complex produces gross total of 392 MW of solar power.
Over 300,000 garage-door-size mirrors are used to attract the power of the sun in two dimensions and reflect the sunlight to boilers that sit atop three 459 foot tall power towers. A center of earth location in relation to the sun is used so that each mirror in its solar generating system is precisely aligned.
What is so special about Ivanpah Solar Thermal? Economic, social and environmental benefits are many. With the thermal’s construction 2,636 new local jobs were created, generating about $350 mi in local and state taxes. Clean, sustainable and reliable solar electricity serves 140,000 homes on average in California, while 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission per year is reduced, which equals to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.
Not only that, the construction of this iconic project was a breakthrough as it kept the majority of the natural landscape untouched unlike other mega constructions. When BrightSource’s 173,000 heliostat pylons were installed, grading and concrete foundations were limited to the maximum, allowing the vegetation to co-exist within the solar field below the mirrors. The project also accounted with an innovative and customized design; excavators operated in the 130-foot wide no-drive zones, traveling in the same tracks through the solar field and installing between 75 and 125 pylons per day, per machine.
The innovative technology uses the same principal of electricity production i.e. high-temperature steam which turns a conventional turbine, where electricity is produced and transmitted to homes and businesses. The big difference is that at Ivanpah, the concentrated sunlight (and not fossil fuel) strikes the boiler’s pipes and heats the water to create superheated steam. Besides, the technology uses 95 percent less water than competing wet cooled solar thermal plants by employing a dry-cooling process, which uses air instead of water to condense steam. All water used by the steam production cycle is recycled back into the system, or consumed to clean the mirrors, highlights BrightSource.
The Ivanpah Solar Thermal System is “critical to establishing America’s leadership in large-scale, clean-energy technology that will keep our economy globally competitive over the next several decades,” says Tom Doyle, president at NRG Solar. This is the future and the Ivanpah has, for sure, started changing the way we produce and consume energy.
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Source: latimesblogs.latimes.com, dailyfusion.net, energy.ca.gov, blog.nrgsolar.com, infrastructurenews.co.nz, brightsourceenergy.com, forconstructionpros.com
Camilla G.//SMC Editor