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Huge US Thermal Plant Opens As Industry Grows

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The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles (13 sq. kilometers) of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants.

“The Ivanpah project is a shining example of how America is becoming a world leader in solar energy,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement after attending a dedication ceremony at the site. “This project shows that building a clean-energy economy creates jobs, curbs greenhouse gas emissions and fosters American innovation.”

The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts – enough power for 140,000 homes. It began making electricity last year. Larger projects are on the way, but for now, Ivanpah is being described as a marker for the United States’ emerging solar industry. While solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation’s power output, thousands of projects from large, utility-scale plants to small production sites are under construction or being planned, particularly across the sun-drenched Southwest.

The opening of Ivanpah is “a dawn of a new era in power generation in the United States,” said Rhone Resch,president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

The plant’s dedication comes as government continues to push for development of greener, cleaner power.

President Barack Obama has mounted a second-term drive to combat climate change, proposing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. His plan aims to help move the U.S. from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by wind and solar power, nuclear energy and natural gas.

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration data, the cost of building and operating a new solar thermal power plant over its lifetime is greater than generating natural gas, coal or nuclear power. It costs a conventional coal plant $100, on average, to produce a megawatt-hour of power, but that figure is $261 for solar thermal power, according to 2011 estimates. The figures do not account for incentives such as state or federal tax credits that can affect the cost.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Mar 1st, 2014 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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