Location: Gila Bend, AZ
In December 2010, the Department of Energy issued a $1.4 billion loan guarantee, enabling Arizona Solar One LLC to create one of the largest parabolic trough solar power plants in the world. The project uses an innovative thermal energy storage system that enables up to six hours of power generation without assistance from the sun’s rays. The 250 MW project is located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, AZ. The project commenced operations in October 2013.
The project uses an innovative thermal energy storage system (first U.S. application) with molten salt as the energy storing media, combined with concentrating solar power (CSP) technology. The CSP technology is similar to technology that was initially used in the U.S. in the 80’s, and captures heat generated by sunlight and converts the heat energy into electricity. This is the largest energy storage project and the first in the U.S., to store over 1000MWh of energy that is dispatchable upon demand without sunlight. The project spans roughly three square miles and consists of over 32,000 collector assemblies—each comprised of 28 curved mirrors—to efficiently concentrate the sun’s energy into a heat transfer fluid. A synthetic oil-based heat transfer fluid heats water to produce steam, which drives a conventional steam turbine generator.
The project is expected to create 1,700 construction jobs and 60 permanent jobs.
The project will generate up to 1,095,000 MWh of clean renewable energy annually and reduce Arizona’s need for fossil fuel-based energy generation, eliminating nearly 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere each year. These reductions will contribute to Arizona state goals for renewable energy deployment, as well as national targets to reduce the negative impact of climate change. The project also minimizes the use of Arizona’s water supply. The project’s land was previously designated for agriculture and uses 75% less water for solar energy production than its previous designation. Additional economic impacts include an estimated $300 to $400 million in 30-year tax revenues and more than $1 billion in gross state revenue.