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Published on February 10th, 2012 | by Silvio Marcacci


World’s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Plant Hits Milestone (VIDEO)

February 10th, 2012 by  


America’s first commercial-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) facility took a major step forward this week with completion of the project’s 540-foot tower.

When complete, the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, located near Tonopah, Nevada, will feature 110-megawatts of new solar capacity with fully integrated energy storage, and be the largest CSP facility in the world.

Crescent Dunes has secured a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with NV Energy, and will supply 480,000 megawatt-hours annually – enough to power 75,000 homes. The project is being built on federal land operated by the Bureau of Land Management, and is expected to be operational by the end of 2013.

“Our U.S.-developed technology has the ability to store energy for 10-15 hours and solves the issue of intermittent power generation to the grid,” said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve CEO. “We can deliver electricity ‘on demand’ the same way a coal, natural gas or nuclear-fueled plant does.”

Here’s a time-lapse video and discussion of the tower’s construction, worth a quick watch (more info following the video):

The CSP process means electricity can be generated from solar power any time of the day – even at night. A large circular field of 10,000 billboard-sized sun-tracking mirrors will focus sunlight to the central receiver tower. Liquid salt will be circulated through the receiver, heated to 1050 degrees Fahrenheit by the sunlight, and stored for later use. When electricity is needed, the hot salt will produce steam and drive a conventional steam turbine cycle, and then be reused the next day.

Funding is a key issue for Crescent Dunes. SolarReserve raised $260 million in private equity and $737 in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. Electricity from the plant is projected to cost 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour and will rise one percent per year during the 25-year PPA.

The project will also have a significant economic impact. Facility construction began in 2011, and is expected to create more than 4,300 jobs throughout the U.S. Construction will create up to 500 on-site jobs, and up to 50 permanent jobs. Once operational, Crescent Dunes is expected to generate $47 million in total tax revenue through the first 10 years of operation.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

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