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Published on November 29th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


BrightSource Going Big on Energy Storage

November 29th, 2011 by  

brightsource energy

BrightSource Energy is a leading solar thermal energy company. In California, it’s in the process of planning and building some of the largest solar thermal power plants in the world. (For more on its technology, see the last paragraph of this post. For more background, check out our BrightSource Energy page.)

Yesterday, the company announced that it is adding “its SolarPLUS thermal energy storage capability to three of its power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison (SCE).” It now has two solar thermal power plants scheduled to be finished and delivering energy in 2015, and three, with storage, scheduled to deliver electricity in 2016 and 2017. (And, BrightSource — with partners NRG Energy, Google, and Bechtel — are building a 126-megawatt plant for Southern California Edison at the Ivanpah solar project in southeast California).

Energy Storage Benefits

“By adding storage to its solar thermal power plants, BrightSource is able to further reduce the total cost of energy by increasing its capacity factor — how much power a plant produces over a year — extending the production of electricity into later parts of the day when it is most needed by utilities,” the company notes.

With the added storage capabilities, BrightSource doesn’t have to build an extra 200-megawatt solar power station (so, it will build six such power stations instead of seven). This will also save approximately 1,280 acres of desert land and will save utility customers money.

The added storage also cuts the need for additional power plants, including more costly coal and nuclear plants, and avoids variability and integration costs that solar PV and wind power face.

“With these agreements, we’re demonstrating that power tower technology is not only advancing the solar thermal industry, but that utility-scale solar generation can be both cost effective and reliable,” said John Woolard, President and CEO of BrightSource Energy.

Clean Energy Mix Moving Forward

Some argue that the benefits of rooftop PV beat the benefits of solar thermal power plants. Some argue wind power beats them both. Personally, I’m of the opinion that we need them all of them at this point, so I’m happy to see BrightSource and California moving forward with these pioneering projects.

More on BrightSource’s power plants:

“A BrightSource power tower solar thermal system uses a field of software-controlled mirrors called heliostats to reflect the sun’s energy to a boiler atop a tower to produce high temperature and high pressure steam. The steam is used to turn a highly efficient steam turbine to produce electricity. When storage is added, the steam is directed to a heat exchanger, where molten salts are further heated to a higher temperature, thus efficiently storing the heat energy for future use. Later, when the energy in storage is needed, the heat stored in the molten salts is used to generate steam to run the turbine.”

Thanks to one of our great readers for the story tip!

Image via BrightSource

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • David in NYC

    I hate to see more pristine desert areas covered by Human Development.
    There are millions of acres of commercial roof space, parking lots, and open roadways that should get solar power production.
    We’ve ruined enough of our planet. Chinese solar production is an environmental nightmare.
    Solar doesn’t need to be part of our problems too.

    • Eric

      David, as much roof space as there is in the U.S- both commercial and residential- it still does not come any where close to producing the amount of power that these desert farms will. Additionally, by the time these farms are at the end of their lives, their will be companies competing over who will have the rights to recycle the excess panels that can’t be put back into circulation. I agree that all of the excess roof and parking lot space should be used, however the desert opens up possibilities that are not present in suburban areas.

      • So? Who says it has to be a contest? We’re doing both. Time to get on board instead of appearing to sit on the sidelines and carp about it.

    • Tropical Day

      The concept is good and I certainly understand your sentiments, although your alternative adds significant cost while reducing yield. At some point in the future I believe your desire will be common practice.
      We see this now in a small scale in areas such as the northeast where land is at a premium as well as topology and woodlands are natural inhibitors.
      For your concept to happen on a large scale solar panel will need to increase efficiency while reducing cost. That takes investment in the industry and large scale solar projects inject the required capital.

      Take serious consideration of the current sources. Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, and wind. Think 10 years out with a breakthrough in solar panel efficiency and application. It is rather easy to dismantle a solar farm, even a wind farm for that matter with minimal negative impact. The same can not be said for any of the other alternatives while they continue to destroy the natural world you seek to protect.

      The greater the investment in solar technology, the sooner we can achieve your goal.

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