Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar plant started producing power today in California’s Mojave Desert, just about 40 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It took about four years to build the plant that is estimated to produce enough power for about 140,000 homes. Developed by BrightSource-Energy, which is based in Oakland, NRG Energy and Google are major investors into the project with an estimated $168 million invested according to executive director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office, Peter Davidson.
In 2011, a $1.6 billion loan guarantee by the Department of Energy allowed the Ivanpah solar farm to become one of seven major solar plant venture in California scheduled in 2014. 300,000 7-foot-high, 10-foot-wide computer-controlled mirrored panels concentrate the Sun’s light to the upper section of three 459-feet towers; there using the equivalent of as much as two-holes worth of water used by a nearby gulf course, the water is turned into steam to power turbines. Last year with a record 2.3 Gigawatt scale solar utilities installed; more than 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide is to be avoided over the plants 30-year lifetime, equivalent of removing around two million cars from the road through the Ivanpah solar plant alone.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry contributes roughly $2.6 billion into the national economy as California aims to stay amongst the top of the nation’s clean energy board leaders with projects like the Ivanpah solar plant. The state passed legislation that would fuel the process of creating new renewable goals and passing laws last year that would permit state regulators to increase renewable requirements without legislature hassle as the country pushes against the constraints associated with its foreign oil dependency and carbon emission policies. Ivanpah and other solar plants are collectively becoming the world’s largest movement towards the solar powered future in energy.
According to NRG Energy, the Ivanpah solar plant is nearly 5.5 square miles and the largest undertaking of its kind in history. The California legislation is expecting at least 50 percent of the market by 2030. President Obama and the Department of Energy are quoted as devoted to ensuring that all sources of energy are economical. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz cited that the department has made more than $24 billion in loan guarantees for clean energy programs, and over $8 billion for fossil fuel projects that lower carbon emission.
California State law requires that, by the end of 2020, utilities must get one-third of their power from renewable energy sources. Although the future of renewable solar power is still uncertain here in America, the potential for oversees business is looming with growth. BrightSource is exploring projects in China, South Africa and Morocco with North American states like Nevada and Georgia showing interest as well. What has yet to be identified is the market technology adoption of either solar thermal or photovoltaic processes; with both currently being considered more expensive then the traditional natural gas burning plants, supporters of both processes estimate that each process will be cheaper than the natural gas plants. Many are waiting to see what can be delivered with the Ivanpah solar plant and other expected solar power projects from the world’s largest movement towards a solar renewable source to correct the nation’s energy crisis.
By Michael Augustine