World’s Largest Solar Plant Lights Up 140,000 California Homes with Clean Energy

By: | March 5th, 2014

Located in California’s Mojave Desert, Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal plant in the world, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles (13 sq. kilometers) near the California-Nevada border. It was formally opened on February 13 last month after years of regulatory and legal tangles, ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants.

Ivanpah will double the amount of commercial solar thermal energy capacity of the United States:

The $2.2 billion complex of three power generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, will generate 392 megawatts solar power … enough to power 140,000 homes annually.

In 2011, Google announced its plan to invest $168 million in the project. BrightSource also funded $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Energy Department, while San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. constructed the facility.
The Ivanpah solar thermal power plant project is referred to as a dawn of a new era in solar power generation in the United State.

How it works:

The Ivanpah solar thermal power plant has more than 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. The software-controlled “mirror panels” automatically adjust to ensure maximum exposure.

These mirrors reflect sunlight onto boilers housed in the top of three towers, each of which is about 450-foot high. The sun heats water inside the towers, thus water is turned to steam to power turbines.

This solar power complex will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year, equivalent to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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