Google’s product portfolio has now expanded from search engine power to solar power.
The company has invested $168 million in a Mojave Desert facility that will become the world’s largest solar power tower plant. The site is located on 3,600 acres of land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California.
According to gizmag, “the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will boast 173,000 heliostats that will concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar tower standing approximately 450 feet (137 m) tall.”
Construction on this plant started in October 2010. When finished in 2013, the facility is expected to generate 392 MW of solar energy.
Solar power tower development, while less advanced than the more common trough systems, may offer higher efficiency and better energy storage capabilities. Parabolic trough systems consist of parabolic mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a Dewar tube running the length of the mirror through which a heat transfer fluid runs that is then used to heat steam in a standard turbine.
Solar power tower systems such as the ISEGS on the other hand focus a large area of sunlight into a single solar receiver on top of a tower to produce steam at high pressure and temperatures of up to 550 ° C (over 1,000° F) to drive a standard turbine and generator. The ISEGS also uses a dry-cooling technology that reduces water consumption by 90 percent and uses 95 percent less water than competing solar thermal technologies. Water is also recirculated during energy before being reused to clean the plant’s mirrors.
According to BrightSource Energy, the plant developer, this will be the first large-scale solar power tower plant built in the U.S. in nearly two decades and will single-handedly almost double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today and nearly equal the amount of total solar installed in the U.S. in 2009 alone.
A brief overview of ISEGS:
- A 370-megawatt nominal (392 megawatt gross) solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.
- The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.
- The complex will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year.
- Located in Ivanpah, approximately 50 miles northwest of Needles, California (about five miles from the California-Nevada border) on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
- The complex is comprised of three separate plants to be built in phases between 2010 and 2013, and will use BrightSource Energy’s LPT 550 technology.
Image via BrightSource Energy/Ivanpah Solar