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Published on October 28th, 2016 | by Tina Casey


Nevada On Track To Get World’s Biggest Concentrating Solar Power Plant

October 28th, 2016 by  

Concentrating solar power tech has faced some withering criticism in the past, but it seems that the CSP industry is just steamrolling right past the doubters. In the latest development, the company SolarReserve let out word that it is eyeballing the construction of a 2,000 megawatt CSP plant in Nevada, to be dubbed Sandstone. The solar behemoth, if it comes into being, will be the world’s largest such facility, with 10 towers and more than 100,000 concentrating mirrors.

Nope, CSP ain’t dead yet.


Nevada Could Get World’s Largest CSP Plant

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has the scoop on the proposed CSP plant, and it’s a good one.

As described by reporter Henry Brean, Sandstone would be the largest solar power plant in the world to use concentrating technology. It would cost about $5 billion and deliver enough power for 1 million homes, which puts it on the same plane as the Hoover Dam.

In terms of capacity, the new CSP plant closes in on the dam’s nameplate level of 2,080 megawatts.

The new solar facility also falls well within the range of nuclear energy. The smallest nuclear power plant in the US has a capacity of 479 megawatts. The largest, a three-unit complex in Arizona, totals 3,937 megawatts.

And, the plant is far larger than SolarReserve’s previous solar project in the US, the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes plant. That plant was constructed with the help of $737 million in federal loan guarantees, as part of an Energy Department initiative to kickstart the CSP industry.

By any measure, the initiative has been a success. As part of the Obama Administration’s SunShot initiative, the Energy Department started with a portfolio of financing for just five plants. About two dozen are already in the pipeline or operational now.

Where To Put A 2,000 Megawatt Solar Plant

For the plant’s site, SolarReserve is looking at two different sites on federal land in Nye County. Each of them would enable the construction of a facility ranging in size from 15,000 to 20,000 acres.

According to a report earlier this week in Engineering News-Record, the company expects to decide between the two sometime within the next six months.

Taking some important lessons learned from the Ivanpah solar plant in California, SolarReserve will most likely pick the one least likely to run into wildlife conservation issues.

If all goes well, this will be only the second CSP plant in the US to store solar energy in molten salt.

The plant is designed to store enough solar power to continue generating overnight.

CSP Alive And Kicking

SolarReserve is leveraging the success of its Crescent Dunes CSP in Tonopah, Nevada to make a case for Sandstone.

In a press release earlier this year, SolarReserve underscored the plant’s ability to deliver 24 hours of solar power without needing 24 hours of sunlight. The company also noted that the facility is just ramping up to full power this year while outperforming expectations:

The molten salt receiver, which is the heart of the system, is performing in excess of design expectations in terms of heat transfer efficiency. This is the key performance validation of SolarReserve’s world-leading solar thermal storage technology developed in the United States. Until Sandstone comes into being, Crescent Dunes is the world’s only utility scale molten salt CSP plant.

The press release cited retiring US Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who emphasized the ripple effect on the state’s economy:

“Nevada will benefit for decades as engineers and experts from around the world come to Tonopah to see what is possible when the public and private sectors come together to build the next generation of clean energy technology.”

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Image (screenshot): via SolarReserve. 

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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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