Landmark CSP plant Ivanpah now powering Californian homes

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The US’s 392MW Ivanpah Solar Electric system, a breakthrough project in concentrating solar power (CSP), has now reached full commercial operation.

Three 450-foot towers erected in the Mojave Desert and surrounded by 173,500 heliostats (mirrors which reflect light towards the three towers and track the direction of sunlight) are now providing clean energy to 140,000 Californian homes.

Utility, Pacific Gas and Electric will purchase power from Ivanpah’s unit 1 and 2, and the third will sell power to Southern Califronia Edison as part of long-term power purchase agreements. The project has an expected life span of 30 years.

The project was developed by NRG Solar and solar thermal technology company, Brightsource Energy and part-funded by Google. Engineering, procurement and construction was completed by Bechtel. NRG Solar will maintain and operate the plant.

The project cost an estimated US$2.2 billion, of which US$1.6 billion was granted as a loan from the US Department of Energy.

The project began in October 2010, and created thousands of jobs during its construction.  

Ivanpah first fed energy into the grid on 25 September last year and began initial commercial operation on 31 December 2013, now all three units are grid connected and generating power for California.  

“Cleantech innovations such as Ivanpah are critical to establishing America's leadership in large-scale, clean-energy technology that will keep our economy globally competitive over the next several decades,” said Tom Doyle, president, NRG Solar.

“We see Ivanpah changing the energy landscape by proving that utility-scale solar is not only possible, but incredibly beneficial to both the economy and in how we produce and consume energy,” Doyle added.

“The completion of this world-class project is a watershed moment for solar thermal energy,” said David Ramm, chairman and CEO of BrightSource Energy.

Ivanpah generates 30% of all thermal solar energy in the US, however CSP is slowly gaining more traction in the US, with the SolarResserve’s Crescent Dunes project to rival Ivanpah soon.

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