More than six years in the making and covering 3,500 acres at ground level, the 377-megawatt facility in the Mojave Desert received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Energy Department and began operating two years ago. Instead of converting Sunlight directly into electricity with photovoltaic cells, the system uses almost 175,000 mirrors to focus Sunlight onto boilers atop three towers which stand nearly 150 meters tall. The reflected light heats water in the boilers to make steam, which turns turbines to generate electricity - enough to power more than 140,000 homes. This combines innovative technology with a traditional power-block facility to produce carbon-free, reliable renewable power. (A ‘power-block’ includes a steam heat exchanger, steam-turbine generator, and the electrical equipment in a substation.) In contrast with fossil fuels, where the land used for exploration, extraction, processing, and then transportation all have to be factored in, this is actually a very efficient utilization of a sustainable energy resource.
If all proceeds smoothly, this may be only the first of many such developments on public lands in the ‘Golden State’. It is crucial that Ivanpah and similar future projects continue to operate, while we develop ever more efficient ways of utilising Solar and other cosmic sources of energy.
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Credit Source for Featured image credit: http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-solar-project#.VzQjoL6DtsQ