Solar power plants in the Mojave Desert

Solar power plants in the Mojave Desert

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There are several solar power plants in the Mojave Desert which supply power to the electricity grid. Solar Energy Generating Systems
Solar Energy Generating Systems
Solar Energy Generating Systems is the largest solar energy generating facility in the world. It consists of nine solar power plants in California's Mojave Desert, where insolation is among the best available in the United States...

 (SEGS) is the name given to nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, in the United States...

 which were built in the 1980s. These plants have a combined capacity of 354 megawatts (MW) making them the largest solar power
Solar power
Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of ever-evolving technologies. Solar radiation, along with secondary solar-powered resources such as wind and wave power, hydroelectricity and biomass, account for most of the available...

 installation in the world. Nevada Solar One
Nevada Solar One
Nevada Solar One is a concentrated solar power plant, with a nominal capacity of 64 MW and maximum capacity of 75 MW spread over an area of 400 Acres. The projected CO2 emissions avoided is equivalent to taking approximately 20,000 cars off the road annually. The project required an investment of...

 is a solar thermal plant with a 64 MW generating capacity, located near Boulder City
Boulder City, Nevada
Boulder City is a city in Clark County, Nevada, United States. It is approximately from the City of Las Vegas. As of the 2010 census the population of Boulder City was 15,023.Boulder City is one of only two cities in Nevada that prohibit gambling....

, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

. The Copper Mountain Solar Facility
Copper Mountain Solar Facility
The Copper Mountain Solar Facility is a 48 megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Boulder City, Nevada. Sempra Generation announced on December 1, 2010 that it had finished the project and the facility was generating electricity...

 is a 48 MW photovoltaic power plant in Boulder City, Nevada
Boulder City, Nevada
Boulder City is a city in Clark County, Nevada, United States. It is approximately from the City of Las Vegas. As of the 2010 census the population of Boulder City was 15,023.Boulder City is one of only two cities in Nevada that prohibit gambling....

.

The Blythe Solar Power Project
Blythe Solar Power Project
The Blythe Solar Power Project is a solar power station under construction in Riverside County, California. The project is being developed by Solarhybrid/Solar Millennium's subsidiary Solar Trust of America, in a joint venture with Chevron Energy Solutions....

 is a 968 MW solar thermal power station under construction in Riverside County, California
Riverside County, California
Riverside County is a county in the U.S. state of California. One of 58 California counties, it covers in the southern part of the state, and stretches from Orange County to the Colorado River, which forms the state border with Arizona. The county derives its name from the city of Riverside,...

. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is a $2.2 billion solar thermal power project currently under construction in the California Mojave Desert, southwest of Las Vegas, with a planned capacity of 392 megawatts . The project is developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel...

 is a 370 MW facility under construction which will consist of three separate solar thermal power plants. There are also plans to build other large solar plants in the Mojave Desert.

Insolation
Insolation
Insolation is a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given time. It is commonly expressed as average irradiance in watts per square meter or kilowatt-hours per square meter per day...

 (solar radiation) in the Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, in the United States...

 is among the best available in the United States, and some significant population centers are located in the area. These plants can generally be built in a few years because solar plants are built almost entirely with modular, readily available materials, although financing has been difficult and the projects typically receive government-backed financing.

Overview



The southwestern United States is one of the world's best areas for insolation, and the Mojave Desert receives up to twice the sunlight received in other regions of the country. This abundance of solar energy makes solar power plants a cleaner alternative to traditional power plants, which burn fossil fuels such as oil
Oil
An oil is any substance that is liquid at ambient temperatures and does not mix with water but may mix with other oils and organic solvents. This general definition includes vegetable oils, volatile essential oils, petrochemical oils, and synthetic oils....

 and coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

. Unlike traditional power plants, solar power stations provide an environmentally benign source of energy, produce virtually no emissions, and consume no fuel other than sunlight. Each facility, however, can range from 5 to ten square miles in size, making it difficult to accommodate projects on ecologically sensitive habitat. Because of this immense land requirement, some groups are encouraging more distributed generation
Distributed generation
Distributed generation, also called on-site generation, dispersed generation, embedded generation, decentralized generation, decentralized energy or distributed energy, generates electricity from many small energy sources....

, or rooftop solar.

Currently, solar electricity is not cost competitive with bulk, baseload power. However, it provides electricity when and where power is most limited and most expensive, which is a strategic contribution. Solar electricity mitigates the risk of fuel-price volatility and improves grid reliability.

While many of the costs of fossil fuels are well known, others (pollution related health problems, environmental degradation, the impact on national security
Energy security
Energy security is a term for an association between national security and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption. Access to cheap energy has become essential to the functioning of modern economies. However, the uneven distribution of energy supplies among countries has led...

 from relying on foreign energy sources) are indirect and difficult to calculate. These are traditionally external to the pricing system, and are thus often referred to as externalities. A corrective pricing mechanism, such as a carbon tax
Carbon tax
A carbon tax is an environmental tax levied on the carbon content of fuels. It is a form of carbon pricing. Carbon is present in every hydrocarbon fuel and is released as carbon dioxide when they are burnt. In contrast, non-combustion energy sources—wind, sunlight, hydropower, and nuclear—do not...

, could lead to renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

, such as solar thermal power, becoming cheaper to the consumer than fossil fuel based energy.

Solar thermal power plants can generally be built in a few years because solar plants are built almost entirely with modular, readily available materials. In contrast, many types of conventional power projects, especially coal and nuclear plants, require long lead times.

Solar One and Solar Two



Solar power tower
Solar power tower
The solar power tower is a type of solar furnace using a tower to receive the focused sunlight. It uses an array of flat, movable mirrors to focus the sun's rays upon a collector tower...

s use thousands of individual sun-tracking mirrors (called heliostat
Heliostat
A heliostat is a device that includes a mirror, usually a plane mirror, which turns so as to keep reflecting sunlight toward a predetermined target, compensating for the sun's apparent motions in the sky. The target may be a physical object, distant from the heliostat, or a direction in space...

s) to reflect solar energy onto a central receiver located on top of a tall tower. The receiver collects the sun's heat in a heat-transfer fluid that flows through the receiver. The U.S. Department of Energy, and a consortium of U.S. utilities and industry, built the first two large-scale, demonstration solar power towers in the desert near Barstow
Barstow, California
Barstow is a city in San Bernardino County, California, United States. The population was 22,639 at the 2010 census, up from 21,119 at the 2000 census. Barstow is located north of San Bernardino....

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

.

Solar One operated successfully from 1982 to 1988, proving that power towers work efficiently to produce utility-scale power from sunlight. The Solar One plant used water/steam as the heat-transfer fluid in the receiver; this presented several problems in terms of storage and continuous turbine operation. To address these problems, Solar One was upgraded to Solar Two, which operated from 1996 to 1999. Both systems had the capacity to produce 10 MW of power.

The unique feature of Solar Two was its use of molten salt to capture and store the sun's heat. The very hot salt was stored and used when needed to produce steam to drive a turbine/generator that produces electricity. The system operated smoothly through intermittent clouds and continued generating electricity long into the night.

Solar Two was decommissioned in 1999, and was converted by the University of California, Davis, into an Air Cherenkov Telescope
Gamma-ray astronomy
Gamma-ray astronomy is the astronomical study of the cosmos with gamma rays. Gamma-rays are the most energetic form of "light" that travel across the universe, and gamma-rays thus have the smallest wavelength of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum.Gamma-rays are created by celestial events...

 in 2001, measuring gamma rays hitting the atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

.

Solar Energy Generating Systems



Trough systems predominate among today's commercial solar power plants. Nine separate trough power plants, called Solar Energy Generating Systems
Solar Energy Generating Systems
Solar Energy Generating Systems is the largest solar energy generating facility in the world. It consists of nine solar power plants in California's Mojave Desert, where insolation is among the best available in the United States...

 (SEGS), were built in the 1980s in the Mojave Desert near Barstow by the Israeli company Luz Industries. These plants have a combined capacity of . Today they generate enough electricity to meet the power needs of approximately 500,000 people.
Trough systems convert the heat from the sun into electricity. Because of their parabolic shape, trough collectors can focus the sun at 30-60 times its normal intensity on a receiver pipe located along the focal line of the trough. Synthetic oil circulates through the pipe and captures this heat, reaching temperatures of 390 °C (735 °F). The hot oil is pumped to a generating station and routed through a heat exchanger to produce steam. Finally, electricity is produced in a conventional steam turbine. The SEGS plants are configured as hybrids to operate on natural gas on cloudy days or after dark, and natural gas provides 25% of the total output.


Nevada Solar One


Nevada Solar One
Nevada Solar One
Nevada Solar One is a concentrated solar power plant, with a nominal capacity of 64 MW and maximum capacity of 75 MW spread over an area of 400 Acres. The projected CO2 emissions avoided is equivalent to taking approximately 20,000 cars off the road annually. The project required an investment of...

 has a 64-MW generating capacity and is located in Boulder City
Boulder City, Nevada
Boulder City is a city in Clark County, Nevada, United States. It is approximately from the City of Las Vegas. As of the 2010 census the population of Boulder City was 15,023.Boulder City is one of only two cities in Nevada that prohibit gambling....

, Nevada. It was built by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory , located in Golden, Colorado, is the United States' primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility; it is funded through...

, and Acciona Solar
Acciona Energy
Acciona Energy, a subsidiary of Acciona based in Madrid, is a Spanish company developing renewable energy projects, including small hydro, biomass, solar energy and thermal energy, and the marketing of biofuels. It also has assets in the field of co-generation and wind turbine manufacture...

.

Nevada Solar One uses parabolic troughs as thermal solar concentrators
Solar thermal energy
Solar thermal energy is a technology for harnessing solar energy for thermal energy . Solar thermal collectors are classified by the United States Energy Information Administration as low-, medium-, or high-temperature collectors. Low-temperature collectors are flat plates generally used to heat...

, heating tubes of liquid which act as solar receivers. These solar receivers are specially coated tubes made of glass and steel, and about 19,300 of these four meter long tubes are used in the newly built power plant. Nevada Solar One also uses a technology that collects extra heat by putting it into phase-changing molten salts. This energy can then be drawn at night.

Solar thermal power plants designed for solar-only generation are well matched to summer noon peak loads in prosperous areas with significant cooling demands, such as the south-western United States. Using thermal energy storage systems, solar thermal operating periods can even be extended to meet baseload needs.

The cost of Nevada Solar One is in the range of $220–250 million. The power produced is slightly more expensive than wind power, but less than photovoltaic (PV) power.

Copper Mountain Solar Facility


The Copper Mountain Solar Facility
Copper Mountain Solar Facility
The Copper Mountain Solar Facility is a 48 megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Boulder City, Nevada. Sempra Generation announced on December 1, 2010 that it had finished the project and the facility was generating electricity...

 is a 48 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic power plant in Boulder City, Nevada
Boulder City, Nevada
Boulder City is a city in Clark County, Nevada, United States. It is approximately from the City of Las Vegas. As of the 2010 census the population of Boulder City was 15,023.Boulder City is one of only two cities in Nevada that prohibit gambling....

. Sempra Generation
Sempra Energy
Sempra Energy is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego, California. It divides its interests into two broad categories: Sempra Utilities, including Pacific Enterprises/Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric; and Sempra Global, a holding company for...

 began construction of the plant in January 2010 and on December 1, 2010, the company announced that it had finished the project and the facility was generating electricity. At its construction peak more than 350 workers were installing the 775,000 First Solar
First Solar
First Solar, Inc. is an American manufacturer of thin film photovoltaic modules, or solar panels, and a provider to PV power plants of supporting services that include finance, construction, maintenance and end-of-life panel recycling...

 panels on the 380 acre site.

The power from Copper Mountain Solar Facility (and the adjacent 10 MW El Dorado Solar Power Plant
El Dorado Solar Power Plant
The 10 megawatt El Dorado Solar Power Plant is a photovoltaic facility located in Boulder City, Nevada, completed in 2008.The power from El Dorado Solar Power Plant has been sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under separate 20-year contracts.-See also:* List of concentrating solar thermal power...

) has been sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under separate 20-year contracts. Californian utilities are required to obtain 20 percent of their energy supply from renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 sources by the end of 2010, increasing to 33 percent by 2020.

Nellis Solar Power Plant


In December 2007, the U.S. Air Force announced the completion of the Nellis Solar Power Plant
Nellis Solar Power Plant
The Nellis Solar Power Plant is located within Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, on the northeast side of Las Vegas. The Nellis solar energy system will generate in excess of 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and supply more than 25 percent of the power used...

, a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, at Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command .-Overview:...

 in Clark County
Clark County, Nevada
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 1,375,765 people, 512,253 households, and 339,693 families residing within the MSA. The racial makeup of the MSA was 71.6% White , 9.1% Black, 5.7% Asian, 0.8% American Indian and 12.8% of other or mixed race. 22.0% were Hispanic of any race...

, Nevada. Occupying 140 acres (56.7 ha) of land leased from the Air Force at the western edge of the base, this ground-mounted photovoltaic system employs an advanced sun tracking system, designed and deployed by PowerLight subsidiary of SunPower
SunPower
SunPower Corporation designs and manufactures high-efficiency crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, roof tiles and solar panels based on a silicon all-back-contact solar cell invented at Stanford University. SunPower Corporation is publicly traded on the NASDAQ as SPWRA and SPWRB...

. Tilted toward the south, each set of solar panels rotates around a central bar to track the sun from east to west. The 14-megawatt (MW, million watt) system will generate more than 30 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year (about 82 thousand kilowatt-hours per day) and supply approximately 25 percent of the total power used at the base. The Nellis Solar Power Plant
Nellis Solar Power Plant
The Nellis Solar Power Plant is located within Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, on the northeast side of Las Vegas. The Nellis solar energy system will generate in excess of 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and supply more than 25 percent of the power used...

 is one of the largest solar photovoltaic systems in North America.

Sierra SunTower



The Sierra SunTower
Sierra SunTower
Sierra SunTower is a 5 MW commercial concentrating solar power plant built and operated by eSolar. The plant is located in Lancaster, California and is the only CSP tower facility operating in North America.- Project overview :...

 is a 5 MW commercial concentrating solar power (CSP
CSP
-General:* CSP * Caledonian Steam Packet Company* California Society of Printmakers* California State Parks* Carol Shea-Porter* Center for Security Policy* Civil Services of Pakistan* Certified Safety Professional...

) plant built and operated by eSolar
ESolar
eSolar was founded by the Pasadena-based business incubator Idealab in 2007 as a developer of concentrating solar power plant technology....

. The plant is located in Lancaster, California
Lancaster, California
Lancaster is a charter city in northern Los Angeles County, in the high desert, near the Kern County line. Lancaster currently ranks as the 30th largest city in California, and the 148th largest city in the United States. Lancaster is the principal city within the Antelope Valley...

 and is the only CSP
CSP
-General:* CSP * Caledonian Steam Packet Company* California Society of Printmakers* California State Parks* Carol Shea-Porter* Center for Security Policy* Civil Services of Pakistan* Certified Safety Professional...

 tower facility operating in North America. The project site occupies approximately 8 hectares (20 acres) in an arid valley in the western corner of the Mojave Desert at 35° north latitude.

Blythe Solar Power Project


The Blythe Solar Power Project
Blythe Solar Power Project
The Blythe Solar Power Project is a solar power station under construction in Riverside County, California. The project is being developed by Solarhybrid/Solar Millennium's subsidiary Solar Trust of America, in a joint venture with Chevron Energy Solutions....

 is a 968 MW solar thermal power station under construction in Riverside County, California
Riverside County, California
Riverside County is a county in the U.S. state of California. One of 58 California counties, it covers in the southern part of the state, and stretches from Orange County to the Colorado River, which forms the state border with Arizona. The county derives its name from the city of Riverside,...

. It will be of parabolic trough
Parabolic trough
A parabolic trough is a type of solar thermal energy collector. It is constructed as a long parabolic mirror with a Dewar tube running its length at the focal point. Sunlight is reflected by the mirror and concentrated on the Dewar tube...

 design, and the companies involved are Solar Millennium
Solar Millennium
Solar Millennium is a German globally active company in the renewable energy sector founded in 1998 in Erlangen, Germany, which is specialized in the designing and implementation of solar thermal power plants...

 and Chevron
Chevron Corporation
Chevron Corporation is an American multinational energy corporation headquartered in San Ramon, California, United States and active in more than 180 countries. It is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, including exploration and production; refining,...

.

Ivanpah Solar Power Facility


The 392MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is a $2.2 billion solar thermal power project currently under construction in the California Mojave Desert, southwest of Las Vegas, with a planned capacity of 392 megawatts . The project is developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel...

, located 40 miles (64.4 km) southwest of Las Vegas, is the world’s largest solar-thermal power plant project currently under construction. BrightSource Energy
BrightSource Energy
BrightSource Energy is an Oakland, California, corporation that designs, builds, finances and operates utility-scale solar power plants that deliver clean, low-cost solar energy to utility and industrial customers worldwide at prices that compete with fossil fuels.Greentech Media ranked...

 received a $1.37 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy
United States Department of Energy
The United States Department of Energy is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material...

 to build the project, which will deploy 347,000 heliostat
Heliostat
A heliostat is a device that includes a mirror, usually a plane mirror, which turns so as to keep reflecting sunlight toward a predetermined target, compensating for the sun's apparent motions in the sky. The target may be a physical object, distant from the heliostat, or a direction in space...

 mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers located on centralized solar power tower
Solar power tower
The solar power tower is a type of solar furnace using a tower to receive the focused sunlight. It uses an array of flat, movable mirrors to focus the sun's rays upon a collector tower...

s.

Mojave Solar Park


The Mojave Solar Park
Mojave Solar Park
The Mojave Solar Park is a solar thermal power facility under construction in the Mojave Desert in California, which is located 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles near Barstow. The 280 MW concentrating solar power plant will cost an estimated $1.6 billion in total and should be completed in 2014...

 is a solar thermal power facility under construction in the Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, in the United States...

 in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, which is located 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles near Barstow. The 280 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant will cost an estimated $1.6 billion in total and should be completed in 2014. Abengoa has successfully secured a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the US government for the project.

Antelope Valley Solar Ranch


The 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch is a First Solar
First Solar
First Solar, Inc. is an American manufacturer of thin film photovoltaic modules, or solar panels, and a provider to PV power plants of supporting services that include finance, construction, maintenance and end-of-life panel recycling...

 photovoltaic project which is under construction in the Antelope Valley area of the Western Mojave Desert, and due to be completed in 2013. The project has received a $680 million government loan guarantee and will involve 350 construction workers. It features an innovative utility-scale deployment of inverters with voltage regulation and monitoring technologies, which will "enable the project to provide more stable and continuous power". Electricity from the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch project will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

Land use issues


Solar thermal power plants are large, but when looking at electricity output versus total size, they use less land than hydroelectric dams (including the size of the lake behind the dam) or coal plants (including the amount of land required for mining and excavation of the coal). While all power plants require land and have an environmental impact, the best locations for solar power plants are deserts or other land for which there might be few other human uses.

Some of the land in the eastern portion of the Mojave Desert is to be preserved, but the solar industry is more interested in areas of the western desert, "where the sun burns hotter and there is easier access to transmission lines", says Kenn J. Arnecke of "FPL Energy". A sentiment shared by many executives in the industry.

See also



  • Deployment of solar power to energy grids
    Deployment of solar power to energy grids
    The development of solar power by country depends on national economic incentives more than insolation. Many industrialized nations are installing significant solar power capacity in their grids as a supplement or alternative to other power sources. Long distance transmission allows remote...

  • List of solar thermal power stations
  • Renewable energy commercialization
    Renewable energy commercialization
    Renewable energy commercialization involves the deployment of three generations of renewable energy technologies dating back more than 100 years. First-generation technologies, which are already mature and economically competitive, include biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal power and heat...


External links