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Californian Desert supplies lots of energy

CSP Plant Mojave Desert by night

CSP Plant Mojave Desert by night (photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Have a look at this Solar Thermal Plant, located in the Mojave Desert at the California/Nevada border.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System uses 347,000 garage-door-sized mirrors to heat water that powers steam generators.

This CSP-plant is one of the clean energy facilities that helps produce 10% of California state’s electricity.

Desert supplies lots of energy

The plant has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). It deploys 173,500 heliostats, each with two mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers located on three centralized solar power towers.

  • The first unit of the system was connected to the electrical grid in September 2013 for an initial synchronisation test
  • The facility formally opened on February 13, 2014.
  • In 2014, it was the world’s largest solar thermal power station

The facility, costing $2.2 billion was developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel.

The largest investor in the project was NRG Energy which contributed $300 million. Google contributed $168 million.

Solar power is getting bigger and bigger in California

In 2010, power plants in the state generated just over 15% of their electricity production from renewable sources. But that was mostly wind and geothermal power, with only a scant 0.5% from solar.

Now that overall amount has grown to 27%! with solar power accounting for 10%, or most of the increase. This doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of rooftop solar systems that produce an additional 4 percentage points, a share that is ever growing.

Seven square miles solar farm

The average cost of solar power for residential, commercial and utility-scale projects declined 73% between 2010 and 2016. Solar electricity now costs 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour — the amount needed to light a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours — to produce, or about the same as electricity produced by a natural gas plant and half the cost of a nuclear facility, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Fly over the Carrizo Plain in California’s Central Valley near San Luis Obispo and you’ll see that what was once barren land is now a sprawling solar farm, with panels covering more than seven square miles — one of the world’s largest clean-energy projects. When the sun shines over the Topaz Solar Farm, the shimmering panels produce enough electricity to power all of the residential homes in a city the size of Long Beach, population 475,000.

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