World's largest solar thermal plant comes online in California, ready to power 100,000 American homes

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 1 minutes
13 February 2014

NEW YORK: The world's largest concentrating solar power plant will come online in California today, a landmark project which spotlights America's renewed leadership of the clean revolution.

The Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the Mojave Desert, California, covers an area of around five square miles of federal land and is the largest of its type in the world.

It features 300,000 large, computer-controlled mirrors, that work to reflect sunlight onto boilers in order to heat their water and make steam. The steam then turns turbines to create electricity.

With 392 megawatts of capacity, the pioneering solar thermal plant can generate enough renewable electricity to power 100,000 homes.

Today after years of regulatory challenges, the US$2.2 billion project will be officially opened by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

His remarks as prepared for delivery: “President Obama and the Department of Energy are committed to ensuring that all sources of energy are competitive in a carbon constrained economy. This is why we have already invested more than US$6 billion in carbon capture and sequestration technologies and recently announced up to US$8 billion in available loan guarantees for advanced fossil energy projects that lower emissions. This is why we provided more than US$8.4 billion in loans to the auto industry to allow our domestic auto producers to retool their American factories to produce cleaner and more efficient vehicles. And this is why we have committed more than US$24 billion in loan guarantees for clean energy projects across the country -- including right here at Ivanpah.”

“In many ways, this project is a symbol of the exciting progress we are seeing across the industry. Last year, utility-scale solar set a record with 2.3 gigawatts installed in 2013.”

“While the visuals are pretty stunning, you can’t see one of the most remarkable features of this project. Ivanpah is utilizing dry-cooling technology that dramatically reduces water usage. In fact, this entire facility will use roughly the same amount of water as two holes at the nearby golf course.”

“Investing in clean energy isn’t a decision that limits our economic potential -- it’s an opportunity to lead the global clean technology markets that are forming right now. We simply can’t afford to be at the back of the train -- we have to be at the front, leading the world in these industries.”

Amy Davidsen, US Executive Director, The Climate Group, commented: "Projects like Ivanpah are changing the way people think about energy. It's one thing to hear about new technologies and their potential. But it's another thing to see this plant here today, fully operational and ready to provide clean power to 100,000 American homes. It's eye-opening, and a testament to what is possible in a clean energy revolution." 

Related news:

US aiming to spend US$30 million on solar innovation

37% of America’s new energy capacity in 2013 came from renewables

Obama's State of the Union underlines US Climate Action Plan

US solar jobs grew ten times faster than America's economy in 2013

Image credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

By Clare Saxon

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