When the sun rises over the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border, its rays now warm a cluster of more than 170,000 mirrors at the world’s largest solar thermal power plant.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), which started construction in October 2010, and began producing its first output of power in September 2013, is the first project that will deliver power to serve the company’s signed contracts with PG&E and Southern California Edison.
Located in California’s Mojave Desert, on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal plant in the world, spanning 1,400 hectares. Once fully operational, the 392 megawatt (377 megawatt net) plant will generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes annually. Ivanpah’s three power tower units will also nearly double the amount of commercial solar thermal energy capacity now operating in the United States.
The project, which counts NRG Solar, Google and BrightSource as equity investors, uses mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers. The complex will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System produced its first output of energy when the Unit 1 station was synchronized to the power grid for the first time. Achieving this critical ‘first sync’ was a major milestone for the project. This successful test demonstrated the effectiveness of the station’s power tower technology, which includes large heliostats that track the sun throughout the day, solar field integration software and a solar receiver steam generator.