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Published on October 4th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


$300 Million To Prove That 24-Hour Solar Power Is Not A Dream Any More

October 4th, 2013 by  

One of the world’s largest solar power plants is taking shape in Arizona, including a built-in solar energy storage feature that enables it to keep humming along after dark. The plant, called Solana, has just received an infusion of $300 million from the Liberty Interactive Corporation as it completes its final testing stages, which so far have proved successful.

The total investment in Solana is approximately $2 billion and it received a federal loan guarantee of $1.45 billion, so yes, we built this!

First Solar Thermal Power Plant In The US

Solana is a 280 megawatt solar power plant based on a parabolic trough system, which can store solar energy in molten salt for up to six hours. That gives it plenty of room to keep generating electricity at night to meet peak demand in the region, which typically tops out in summer evenings and early night times.

Arizona Public Service already has dibs on all of the plant’s electricity, through a power purchase agreement. Overall, Solana is expected to provide enough clean power for 70,000 homes.

Solana solar power plant generates electricity at night.

Clock by PhotoOptik.

The plant is currently still in a shakedown phase, and so far it has proven successful at generating electricity both day and night, with the flexibility to adjust to variations in consumption.

Who Needs The Keystone XL Pipeline?

The notorious Keystone XL Pipeline has been touted as a vital job-creating engine, but according to Abengoa Solar, Solana’s  developer, this one solar project alone will create 85 permanent, direct jobs. That compares favorably with the few dozen permanent jobs expected from Keystone XL.

That’s also in addition to the more than 2,000 jobs created during Solana’s construction, along with a ripple effect for a supply chain that involved about 165 companies in 29 different states.

Solar Goes Mainstream

If you were still wondering whether or not renewable energy is now firmly entrenched in the US mainstream, consider that Liberty Interactive operates and owns interests in some of the most firmly entrenched e-commerce names in the US, including 100 percent ownership in QVC and 38 percent in HSN.

As for the solar power naysayers, can we finally stop talking about how intermittent sources of energy – namely, solar and wind – are unreliable? We live in a world where a swarm of jellyfish can attack a nuclear power plant and shut it down, so it seems a little silly to keep arguing against renewable energy from that angle. With sufficient energy storage at hand, the intermittent issue is a moot point.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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