As nuclear power continues to fall out of favour, California is making big investments in alternative energy sources to meet rising demand. One of its most ambitious projects will use the Mojave sun to power over a quarter million homes.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is comprised of 347,000 software-controlled heliostat mirrors, each focusing sunlight towards one of three “LPT 550” solar receivers sitting atop centralised towers. The receivers use the sunlight to superheat steam and to spin a specially-adapted turbine, creating electricity. The steam is then reclaimed using an air-cooled condenser.
The Ivanpah system is located in the Mojave Desert, close to Interstate 15, near the California–Nevada border. When it goes live in 2013, this $US2.18 billion, 4000-acre solar project will have a maximum capacity of 392 MW; enough to power nearly 350,000 homes. Two-thirds of the energy generated will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric (for powering the SF Bay Area and Northern California), and the rest to Southern California Edison (for powering LA). Approximately 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided over the plant’s 30-year lifespan.
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