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Published on August 17th, 2012 | by Andrew

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Construction of World’s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Plant Reaches Halfway Mark



 
Construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) — the largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the world — has reached the midway point and remains on schedule to begin delivering what’s due to be a net 370 MW of clean, renewable electricity to consumers in California come September, 2013.

Developer of the $2.2 billion ISEGS project, BrightSource is installing its LPT system at the project site in California’s Mojave Desert. Ivanpah’s design calls for more than 173,000 heliostats to focus sunlight on three solar towers, where the concentrated solar power will turn water to steam to drive conventional steam power generators.

Some 2,100 construction workers are at work on the ISEGS site. They have erected three steel tower structures, installed more than 10,000 steel pylons, and mounted almost 50,000 heliostats, according to a US Dept. of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) press release.
 

 

Green Jobs, Growth and Carbon Emissions Reductions

“Large-scale solar projects like Ivanpah create thousands of construction jobs and provide clean, renewable power to help meet state renewable energy goals,”commented NRG Solar CEO Tom Doyle, an equity investor in the project. “We believe that encouraging public and private investment in our domestic clean energy industry through successful projects like Ivanpah ultimately will pay dividends by helping to secure our country’s economic future.”

One of the solar energy projects in Pres. Obama’s SunShot Initiative, completion of Ivanpah will almost double total US CSP power capacity. Bringing together public and private sector solar energy industry and market participants across the value chain, the SunShot Initiative aims to reduce the installed cost of solar energy systems by some 75%.

It’s estimated the ISEGS project will add $400 million in local and state tax revenues and produce $650 million in wages over its 30-year life. The majority of the equipment used to construct the solar thermal power generation plant is being sourced domestically, creating additional jobs and money flows around the country.

In addition to creating jobs, stimulating economic activity, and adding to state treasury coffers, ISEGS will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, according to BrightSource. That’s equivalent to taking more than 70,000 cars off the road.

BrightSource has designed the plant to minimize its impact on the natural environment. Flexible heliostats enable project builders to build around the land’s natural contours and areas of sensitive vegetation, the company explains. Being built in a desert, an air-cooling system converts the steam back into water in a closed-loop cycle so that it can be reused. BrightSource’s air-cooled condenser uses more than 90% less water than older parabolic trough technology.

Once up and running, the clean, renewable electricity ISEGS produces will power more than 140,000 California homes and businesses. Power purchase agreements have been secured with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Joining the federal government and BrightSource in investing in the project are NRG Solar and Google. BrightSource’s ISEGS project qualified for a federal loan guarantee per the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, a federal program that Republicans have been criticizing and trying to bring to an end.

Multinational engineering company Bechtel is leading the construction effort.

“The scale and complexity of the Ivanpah project presented first-of-a-kind construction challenges that required innovative thinking and execution at every level,” Jim Ivany, president of Bechtel’s Renewable Power business, stated.

“We created lean approaches to multiple phases of the project, including heliostat assembly installation and construction of the project’s steel towers, each topped with 2,200-ton solar receiver steam generators. The processes we developed enabled the team to successfully advance the project to support electricity generation in 2013.”

DoE has put up an interactive “Ask an Expert” feature that those interested can access to inquire and find out more about Ivanpah. The SunShot Solar Technical Assitance Team (STAT) yesterday conducted an online seminar covering solar technology options, how they work, and how to determine appropriate locations for particular solar energy technologies.

Photo Credit: BrightSource

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.



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