The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will consist of three separate solar thermal power plants in south-eastern California. The facility will consist of fields of heliostat mirrors focusing sunlight on receivers located on centralized solar power towers. The receivers will generate steam to drive specially adapted steam turbines. For the first plant, the largest ever fully solar-powered steam turbine-generator set was ordered, using a 123 MW Siemens SST-900 dual-casing reheat turbine. Final approval was gained in October 2010. On October 27, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and other dignitaries gathered in the Mojave Desert to officially break ground on the project. The first phase of the Ivanpah facility is scheduled to be finished in 2013.
The project will occupy about 4,000 acres (16 km2) near Interstate 15 near the California–Nevada border, north of Ivanpah, California, and will be visible from the adjacent Mojave National Preserve, Mesquite Wilderness, and Stateline Wilderness.
The project has received a $1.375 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy — the largest offered to a solar project. The total cost of the project is about $2,180 million. BrightSource has contracts to sell about two-thirds of the power generated at Ivanpah to PG&E, and the rest to SCE.
The Ivanpah plants would use BrightSource Energy's "Luz Power Tower 550 technology" (LPT 550):
The LPT 550 solar system produces electricity the same way as traditional power plants – by creating high temperature steam to turn a turbine. BrightSource uses thousands of mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a receiver, being developed by Riley Power Inc., filled with water that sits atop a tower. When the sunlight hits the receiver, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine which generates electricity.
The company plans to start commercial operation of the second phase in mid-2013 and the third later that year.
BrightSource estimates that the Ivanpah facility would involve some 1,000 jobs at the peak of construction, 86 permanent jobs, and total economic benefits of $3 billion.
Elected San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who represents most of the California Mojave Desert has stated that the "project would create jobs for mostly Las Vegas and electricity for mostly San Francisco."
According to the State of California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission Opening Briefs regarding this project, "The project itself is visually imposing. It would cover roughly 4000 acres, most of which would be covered with mirror fields. The panoramic expanse of mirror arrays would present strong textural contrast with the intact, natural character of the desert floor [and] would rise to a height of roughly 459 feet [140 m]; an additional 10 to 15 feet [3–5 m] above that height would consist of lighting to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements."
Additionally, "The power towers have 'receiver units' at their top on which the mirror fields focus their reflected light. During operation, these receiver units become extremely hot, such that they glow and appear brightly lit [and] high above the ground, these glowing receiver units will be a visible distraction to persons at many of the Key Observation Points, including travelers utilizing I-15."
The LPT 550 solar system minimizes the plant’s environmental impact, reducing the need for extensive land grading and concrete pads. By placing individual mirrors on poles directly into the ground, the system allows vegetation to co-exist within the project and avoids sensitive habitat. Other solar technologies require completely flat ground, necessitating bulldozing of the entire area. The Ivanpah project will only require grading to a small percentage of the area used for roads and buildings. In order to conserve scarce desert water, LPT 550 uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water. Compared to conventional wet-cooling, this results in a 90 percent reduction in water usage, at some loss in power and turbine efficiency. The water is then returned to the boiler in a closed process. In 2010, the project was scaled back from the original 440 MW design to avoid building on habitat of the desert tortoise.
The power generated from these solar plants will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.
- List of solar thermal power stations
- Solar power plants in the Mojave Desert
- Blythe Solar Power Project