Massive Solar Thermal Power Plant A Stepping Stone For Future Projects  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

NPR has a report on the looming completion of the 377 MW Ivanpah solar thermal power project in California - Massive Solar Plant A Stepping Stone For Future Projects.

The largest solar power plant of its kind is about to turn on in California's Mojave Desert.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will power about 140,000 homes and will be a boon to the state's renewable energy goals, but it was no slam dunk. Now, California is trying to bring conservationists and energy companies together to create a smoother path for future projects.

To get the best view of the Ivanpah solar project, you have to go up to the top of a 400-foot concrete tower. Below, close to 200,000 mirrors shimmer across a dry, dusty valley. "It's very exciting," says Dave Beaudoin, the construction manager for the $2 billion project located about an hour southwest of Las Vegas. Each mirror is about the size of a garage door, and it's mounted on a pole so it can be pointed at the tower. "We can keep the sun's energy — the rays of the sun — targeted back to the solar tower," Beaudoin says.

All of those mirrors generate about a thousand degrees of heat. It isn't the solar technology most of us think of: dark panels on rooftops. These mirrors heat a giant boiler on top of the tower, where water turns into steam. Beaudoin says that steam powers a turbine that generates electricity.

Greentech Media reports that Brightsource has needed to get some additional funding to complete the plant and is now looking to sell the technology in future rather than build projects - BrightSource Raises Another $35M for Ivanpah and CSP.

BrightSource Energy just collected $15 million of a modest $35 million tranche of venture funding. (It's modest relative to the hundreds of millions the company has raised over the last decade.) ...

Woolard's resignation came on the heels of a BrightSource press release that described the company "evolving from being a U.S. project developer to becoming a global technology provider that also offers development support as well as engineering and operational services." That's tough language to decode, but forgoing project development to become a "technology provider" is reminiscent of a startup's transition to a licensing model -- not always a good sign for a startup. ...

Several months ago, we reported that BrightSource's giant Ivanpah solar thermal project in the Mojave Desert was 92 percent complete. The 377-megawatt project consists of three 459-foot-tall towers encircled by arrays of garage-door-sized heliostats. A total of 173,500 computer-controlled heliostats will eventually reflect the sun onto the receiving towers, heating water to create steam that will drive turbines that produce electricity. Future projects from BrightSource will include thermal energy storage as per Solar Reserve's projects. Another CSP vendor, GlassPoint, directs its steam toward enhanced oil recovery, rather than electrical power. Two BrightSource Energy projects have recently been shelved due to permitting issues. BSE terminated power purchase agreements for the proposed Hidden Hills and Rio Mesa CSP solar power tower projects....

Former CEO Woolard said, "The problem we're trying to solve is [... how to] decarbonize the power supply and maintain system reliability at the lowest total cost to customers." Woolard noted that each picture-window-sized heliostat mirror, installed at the rate of one per minute at the $2.2 billion Ivanpah project, is capable of providing power to approximately one home, without the "hidden integration costs to the consumer" that come with wind and solar.

Since BrightSource was founded, its competition -- natural gas and solar photovoltaics -- has gone through disruptive price drops. CSP has not yet had the opportunity to scale like those two technologies.

RenewEconomy has an article on a new mirror design that could dramatically increase the efficiency of solar thermal plants - ‘Perfect’ mirror could lead to concentrated solar breakthrough.
Researchers at MIT in the US have stumbled upon a new method to trap light that could lead to a wide variety of applications, not least of all a vast improvement in the efficiency of concentrated solar power generation.

The breakthrough involves what is being described as a kind of “perfect” mirror, which works in a way that deviates from known scientific laws, pitting light waves against light waves, and setting up two waves that have the same wavelength, but exactly opposite phases — where one wave has a peak, the other has a trough — so that the waves cancel each other out. Meanwhile, light of other wavelengths (or colors) can pass through freely.

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