Despite the onslaught of a global recession the exponential increase in renewable energy continues! Good thing, or else this job would get, like, boring, and I'd hate to take a week off.
The desert outside of Los Angeles is about to get a system of solar thermal plants that will, at maximum output, produce 1.3 gigawatts of power. Yes, that is more even than large nuclear plants. And please...while commenting, do our best to avoid Back to the Future jokes. This is officially the world's largest planned solar project (at least for a while) beating out China's 1 GW PV plant that was announced this December.
The plant is a joint project of Southern California Edison, the utility that serves the area, and Brightsource, the company who will be building the power plant. The power will be produced by focusing light from a large area with mirrors onto a tower. The heat will then be used to boil water and the steam will turn a turbine, just like a traditional coal or nuclear power plant.
The main advantage of these"solar thermal" power plants over photovoltaic power plants is that the technology is very simple, and thus cheaper. They aren't as efficient per acre, but they're a lot cheaper to build. Solar thermal plants have been shown to, over their lifetimes, be an even better investment than coal-fired power plants, even without government subsidies, so the resurgence in their construction should come as no surprise.
There will be seven of these towers built, each producing between 100 and 300 megawatts of electricity. The first will be finished in 2013 with the rest of the seven to follow.
While BrightSource is emerging as an early leader with more than two gigawatts of capacity planned for construction already, other companies are also actively pursuing the space, and creating a bit of a gold-rush for the world's desert lands. It's good news for us all, and I'm looking forward to watching these massive plants get themselves online!
written by Anthony, February 12, 2009
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