The giant 290-megawatt Agua Caliente Solar Power Project is one step closer to bringing 400 new green jobs to Arizona, thanks to a $967 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy that will get the thin-film photovoltaic project off the ground. The new facility, sponsored by solar giant NRG, will deploy two cutting edge technologies that improve the stability of power supply from the plant to the grid. Called fault ride-through and dynamic voltage regulation, the two technologies are new to the solar industry, so their successful application in the Agua Caliente project could make them industry standards throughout the U.S.
NRG and Solar Power
If the name NRG rings a bell, that’s the same general-purpose energy company that recently cancelled two nuclear power plants planned for Texas, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The company’s priorities send a clear signal that the U.S. energy industry is transitioning toward more stable, reliable, and safe ways to power up the U.S. In addition to the Agua Caliente centralized-power solar facility, NRG is also the force behind the Department of Energy’s super-ambitious distributed-power solar project, called Project Amp. This program, announced earlier this summer, involves the installation of $1.4 billion worth of rooftop solar panels on hundreds of buildings, basically doubling U.S. solar capacity over 2010 levels.
The Agua Caliente Solar Power Project
As described by writer Joseph Picard at ibtimes.com, the new Agua Caliente project will use two technologies called fault ride-through and dynamic voltage regulation, which are commonly used in other forms of power but are new to the U.S. solar industry. They help to avoid disconnections and slowdowns by enabling transmission equipment to adjust to dips in the grid. Currently, conventional solar power plants rely on ion-battery storage to smooth the transmission bumps. The thin-film solar panels will be built by First Solar, Inc., and the power will be purchased by Pacific Gas & Electric for its California customers.
One Step Closer to Truly Emission-Free Electric Vehicles
For electric vehicle drivers, gigantic projects like Agua Caliente provide the extra bonus of moving the grid to clean, renewable energy — otherwise, of course, that zero-emission EV is just sucking energy off the local nuclear or coal power plant. Aside from introducing more solar energy into the grid, NRG is also developing more wind energy access for EV drivers through a subsidiary. The subsidiary, eVgo, just embarked on a partnership in Texas with the alternative energy company Green Mountain Energy to install home EV charging stations that will be supplied by 100% wind power.
Image: Arizona sunshine by Walt Hubis on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.