Big solar Ivanpah project gets green light

Bureau of Land Management issues final approval, paving way for BrightSource to build concentrating solar thermal plant in southern California meant to supply 140,000 homes.

An illustration of the solar power tower BrightSource Energy plans to build at the Ivanpah project in southern California.
An illustration of the solar tower power BrightSource Energy plans to build at the Ivanpah project in southern California. BrightSource Energy

BrightSource Energy today said that it has received the final approvals from the Bureau of Land Management needed to build a solar power plant in California using solar "power tower" technology.

The company expects to start building the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generation System, which will have a capacity of 392 megawatts, later this year and complete the work in 2012.

The Ivanpah plant is one of nine large-scale solar projects working through the federal permitting process for building on public land. The BLM yesterday gave approval for two other solar projects to built on public lands, also in southern California.

The BrightSource Energy Ivanpah project, projected to take up about 3,500 acres, will generate enough electricity to supply 140,000 homes, the company said.

It will use thousands of mirrors to reflect light onto centralized towers, which will use the heat from the sunlight to make steam. That steam is run though a turbine to turn a generator to make electricity.

BrightSource said that it will use air-cooling, rather than water, which is a serious concern in the desert areas where concentrating solar works best. BrightSource said it will use 100 acre-feet of water per year, much less than other solar thermal technologies.

The company has contracts to sell its electricity to California utilities, which have a mandate to supply a portion of their electricity from renewable sources. BrightSource also received $1.37 billion in loan guarantees as part of the project financing.

 

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