Location: Baker, CA
In April 2011 The Department of Energy announced a $1.6 billion loan guarantee that enables BrightSource Energy and its partners—NRG and Google—to build the world’s largest solar thermal facility.
The power tower solar thermal technology used in the Ivanpah facility generates power by creating high-temperature steam to drive a conventional steam turbine. Ivanpah uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and create steam, which is then converted to electricity. Its innovative system of software-controlled mirrors—called “heliostats”—follow the sun and reflect it onto a boiler filled with water that sits atop a tower reaching just over 450 feet, of which there are three on site. When the sunlight hits the boiler, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional steam turbine, which generates electricity.
The project has employed thousands in an area with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. The construction phase necessitated 1,000 full-time employees. During operations, the three power tower plants will provide 86 permanent jobs.
When completed in late 2013, Ivanpah will nearly double the amount of solar thermal energy produced in the U.S. in previous years. By harnessing the Mojave Desert’s sunlight, Ivanpah will generate approximately 392 MW (gross) of clean, reliable electricity. That is enough energy to power nearly 100,000 homes; and it will avoid 617,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the emissions of 132,000 cars. In addition, the majority of the project’s supply chain has been sourced in the U.S., with components and services coming from more than 18 states.