Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
|Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System|
Looking north towards Ivanpah Facility's eastern boiler tower from Interstate 15.
|Location||near Ivanpah, San Bernardino County, California|
|Commission date||2013 (expected)|
|Construction cost||$2.18 billion|
|Solar farm information|
|CSP technology||Solar power tower|
|Land area||3,500 acres (1,420 ha)|
|Power generation information|
|Maximum capacity||392 MW|
|Annual generation||1,079,232 MW·h |
|As of 29 October 2010|
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is a solar thermal power project currently under construction in the California Mojave Desert, 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Las Vegas, with a planned capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). It will deploy 170,000 heliostat mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers located on centralized solar power towers.
The project has been developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel. The project will cost $2.2 billion and the largest investor in the project is NRG Energy, a generating company based in Princeton, N.J., that has put in $300 million. The project has received a $1.375 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy. The estimated construction costs for this CSP project: $5,561.00 per KW fall between the construction costs for coal and nuclear power plants per Synapse Energy Economics.
In February 2012, Ivanpah was awarded the CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) Project of the Year by Solar Power Generation USA.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System consists of three solar thermal power plants on a 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) tract of public land near the Mojave Desert and the California—Nevada border in the Southwestern United States.; this is near interstate 15 and north of Ivanpah, California. The site will be visible from adjacent Mojave National Preserve, Mesquite Wilderness, and Stateline Wilderness.
The facility will consist of fields of heliostat mirrors focusing sunlight on receivers located on centralized solar power towers. The receivers will generate steam to drive specially adapted steam turbines. For the first plant, the largest ever fully solar-powered steam turbine-generator set was ordered, using a 123-megawatt (165,000 hp) Siemens SST-900 dual-casing reheat turbine. Besides steam-turbine generators Siemens will supply instrumentation and control systems. Final approval was gained in October 2010. On October 27, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and other dignitaries gathered in the Mojave Desert to officially break ground on the project. The first phase of the Ivanpah facility is scheduled to be finished in 2013. The project has generated controversy because of BrightSource's decision to build it on ecologically intact desert habitat. Project construction was temporarily halted in the spring of 2011 due to the impacts on desert tortoises, although construction resumed.
The project has received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. The total cost of the project is about $2.18 billion. BrightSource has contracts to sell about two-thirds of the power generated at Ivanpah to PG&E, and the rest to SCE.
The largest investor in the project is NRG Energy, a generating company based in Princeton, N.J., that has put in $300 million. The project has also received an investment of $168 million from Google, but in November 2011, Google announced that they would no longer invest in CSP due to the rapid price decline of photovoltaics, and stopped its research on the project.
In February 2012, Ivanpah was awarded the CSP Project of the Year by Solar Power Generation USA.
The Ivanpah plants would use BrightSource Energy's "Luz Power Tower 550 technology" (LPT 550):
Riley Power Inc., filled with water that sits atop a tower. When the sunlight hits the receiver, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine which generates electricity.
The company plans to start commercial operation of the second phase in mid-2013 and the third later that year.
Elected San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who represents most of the California Mojave Desert has stated that the "project would create jobs for mostly Las Vegas and electricity for mostly San Francisco."
According to the State of California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission Opening Briefs regarding this project, "The project itself is visually imposing. It would cover roughly 4,000 acres (1,600 ha), most of which would be covered with mirror fields. The panoramic expanse of mirror arrays would present strong textural contrast with the intact, natural character of the desert floor [and] would rise to a height of roughly 459 feet [140 m]; an additional 10 to 15 feet [3–5 m] above that height would consist of lighting to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements."
Additionally, "The power towers have 'receiver units' at their top on which the mirror fields focus their reflected light. During operation, these receiver units become extremely hot, such that they glow and appear brightly lit [and] high above the ground, these glowing receiver units will be a visible distraction to persons at many of the Key Observation Points, including travelers utilizing I-15."
The LPT 550 solar system may not be as destructive as photovoltaic solar facilities on desert habitat, which require completely flat ground and involve bulldozing of the entire area. However, BrightSource Energy's mowing of native vegetation, and anticipated erosion of desert soils on the project site make the habitat unsuitable for most plant and wildlife, according to the Final Staff Assessment of the project conducted by the California Energy Commission. BrightSource is also required to install fencing that will keep wildlife out of the area. In 2010, the project was scaled back from the original 440-megawatt (590,050 hp) design, to avoid building on the habitat of the desert tortoise.
As of September 2011, the project has displaced at least 127 threatened desert tortoises, which are expected to be moved to other parts of the Mojave Desert. However, environmentalists have raised concerns that relocated tortoises are more likely to die due to the stresses of adapting to a new area and increased vulnerability to natural predators. In order to conserve scarce desert water, LPT 550 uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water. Compared to conventional wet-cooling, this results in a 90 percent reduction in water usage, at some loss in power and turbine efficiency. The water is then returned to the boiler in a closed process.
In 2012 the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) issued a report critical of the project, citing water concerns, damage to visual resources and impacts on important desert species. David Lamfrom, NPCA's California Desert Senior Program Manager, stated in an interview, "Ivanpah was absolutely a mistake," said Lamfrom. "The Federal government has in essence recognized this by excluding future solar development from the Ivanpah Valley."
It's also important to remember that if solar projects are done in a responsible way, they can be a key to protecting fragile ecosystems. Transitioning from fossil fuels to solar energy helps to protect such ecosystems from the threats of climate change. This is a "new stewardship strategy for protecting our lands and waters in the future".
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- Ivanpah Solar Power Facility website
- Brightsource energy official website
- Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System