The Brightsource Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, in the Mojave Desert of California, is ready to go online, and pending approval by the California Public Utilities Commission should begin generating electricity very soon.
Located off the Interstate-15 near the Nevada border, the Ivanpah solar project is one of the largest ever completed. Using 170,000 mirrors, sunlight is concentrated and focused on three 450-foot tall towers. Water in the towers is heated to boiling temperatures, where it converts to steam and spins a turbine that generates electricity.
The total power capacity of the Ivanpah project is 392 megawatts (MW), enough to light 140,000 homes. The process produces no carbon emissions and qualifies as a renewable energy source.
The technology involved is very different from the photovoltaic panels that AMECO installs on rooftops, but the goal is the same: To provide a clean, affordable energy source to California residents that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and stabilize long term energy costs. The project is funded by Brightsource Energy, along with support from Google and NRG and a federal loan.
The completion of Ivanpah will help the state of California meet its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) goal of 33 percent by 2020. It has drawn some criticism for the impact the project has had on desert tortoise populations, but biologists hired by Brightsource have relocated the animals to alternative locations where they can thrive.
By integrating more California solar energy into the state’s electrical grid, plants like the one at Ivanpah allow more Californians to reap the financial, economic and environmental benefits of solar power.