Solar goes big time with the world’s largest solar thermal plant
In what could be a major turning point for industrial-grade solar energy, the Ivanpah solar power plant, the largest solar thermal project of its kind in the world, formally opened Thursday in the Mojave Desert. “This is a game changer,” Solar Foundation Executive Director Andrea Luecke told VentureBeat.
“People like to say that solar energy is not a reality, that it’s not ready for prime time,” she added, “but now Ivanpah is producing 400 megawatts.”
It’s an enormous, blazing monument to solar power that is stunning for its size as well as the sheer quantity of electricity it generates.
Officially called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the facility covers about five square miles of federal land near Ivanpah, California, not far from the Nevada border. It began generating energy on New Year’s Eve and is jointly owned by NRG Energy, Google Ventures and BrightSource Energy. The owners sell power to Pacific Gas & Electric and South California Edison.
The $2.2 billion plant contains three generating units and can produce 392 megawatts, providing enough electricity for a yearly average of 140,000 homes. That makes a serious down-payment on California’s ambitious goal of getting one-third of its power needs from renewables by 2020. By itself, Ivanpah accounts for nearly a third of all solar thermal energy currently produced in the U.S.