Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the solar association, said in a statement that solar systems have seen “dramatic price declines” in the last few years.
That’s good for utilities in California, which must obtain a third of their electricity from solar and other renewable sources by 2020.
The Ivanpah site, about 45 miles (75 kilometers) southwest of Las Vegas, has virtually unbroken sunshine most of the year and is near transmission lines that carry power to consumers.
Using technology known as solar-thermal, nearly 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors roughly the size of a garage door reflect sunlight to boilers atop 459-foot (140-meter) towers. The sun’s power is used to heat water in the boilers’ tubes and make steam, which drives turbines to create electricity.
While many people are familiar with rooftop solar, or photovoltaic panels, “these are a little bit different. This takes the sun’s rays and reflects them onto towers,” said NRG spokesman Jeff Holland.
The plant can be a startling sight for drivers heading toward Las Vegas along busy Interstate 15. Amid miles of rock and scrub, its vast array of mirrors creates the image of an ethereal lake shimmering atop the desert floor. In fact, it’s built on a dry lakebed.
Google announced in 2011 that it would invest $168 million in the project. As part of its financing, BrightSource also lined up $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Energy Department, while San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. constructed the facility.
Ivanpah can be seen as a success story and a cautionary tale, highlighting the inevitable trade-offs between the need for cleaner power and the loss of fragile, open land. The California Energy Commission concluded that while the solar plant would impose “significant impacts on the environment … the benefits the project would provide override those impacts.”<< previous 1 2 3 4 next >>