Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), funded by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy, is the “world’s largest solar thermal plant.” Although its construction was completed three years ago, it wasn’t fully operational then. But the good news is now this solar thermal plant is fully operational and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 140,000 houses, each year.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is a solar thermal power project in the California Mojave Desert, 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Las Vegas, with a planned gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW).
The plant has three units – Unit 1, Unit 2 and Unit 3. Unit 1 and Unit 3 jointly generate 259 MW electricity, while Unit 2 generates 133 MW electricity.
The solar thermal plant uses 173,500 heliostats (computer-controlled mirrors) that follow the sun’s trajectory and reflect its light towards three solar receiving water boiler towers.
The boilers superheat steam to temperatures of up to 550° C (over 1,000° F), which drives standard turbines to generate electricity.
The Ivanpah plant cost US$2.2 billion to build and stretches over 3,500 acres (more than 1,400 hectares). Princeton, N.J. based NRG Energy is the largest investor in this project. It has invested $300 million. Besides, the project has received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy.
At present, ISEGS solar power plant generates 30 percent of solar power generated in the US. NRG Energy has announced that each of the plant’s three units is now supplying electricity to California’s grid. The electricity produced by Unit 1 and Unit 3 at Ivanpah, is being sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under two “long-term power purchase agreements.” And the electricity produced by Unit 2 at Ivanpah, is being sold to Southern California Edison with similar terms.
Tom Doyle, NRG Solar’s president said, “Cleantech innovations such as Ivanpah are critical to establishing America’s leadership in large-scale, clean-energy technology that will keep our economy globally competitive over the next several decades. We see Ivanpah changing the energy landscape by proving that utility-scale solar is not only possible, but incredibly beneficial to both the economy and in how we produce and consume energy.”