Environment

Google invests US$168 million in world’s largest solar power tower plant

Google invests US$168 million ...
Model rendering of ISEGS, the world's largest solar power tower being built in California
Model rendering of ISEGS, the world's largest solar power tower being built in California
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Model rendering of the ISEGS heliostats
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Model rendering of the ISEGS heliostats
Model rendering of ISEGS, the world's largest solar power tower being built in California
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Model rendering of ISEGS, the world's largest solar power tower being built in California

Google has chipped in a US$168 million investment in what will be the world's largest solar power tower plant. To be located on 3,600 acres of land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will boast 173,000 heliostats that will concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar tower standing approximately 450 feet (137 m) tall. The plant commenced construction in October 2010 and is expected to generate 392 MW of solar energy following its projected completion in 2013.

Although solar power tower development is currently less advanced than the more common trough systems, they offer higher efficiency and better energy storage capabilities. Parabolic trough systems consist of parabolic mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a Dewar tube running the length of the mirror through which a heat transfer fluid runs that is then used to heat steam in a standard turbine.

Solar power tower systems such as the ISEGS on the other hand focus a large area of sunlight into a single solar receiver on top of a tower to produce steam at high pressure and temperatures of up to 550 ° C (over 1,000° F) to drive a standard turbine and generator. The ISEGS also uses a dry-cooling technology that reduces water consumption by 90 percent and uses 95 percent less water than competing solar thermal technologies. Water is also recirculated during energy before being reused to clean the plant's mirrors.

Model rendering of the ISEGS heliostats
Model rendering of the ISEGS heliostats

Overshadowing the 20 MW PS20 solar power tower plant in Spain, the scale of ISEGS can't be overstated. It will be the first large-scale solar power tower plant built in the U.S. in nearly two decades and will single-handedly almost double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today and nearly equal the amount of total solar installed in the U.S. in 2009 alone.

The entire complex will consist of three separate plants developed by BrightSource Energy that will be built in phases between 2010 and 2013. The energy generated from all three plants will be enough to supply more than 140,000 homes in California during peak usage hours, with the project contracted to provide 1,300 MW to Southern California Edison and 1,310 MW to Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Google says it has now invested over $250 million in the clean energy sector but its $168 million investment in the ISEGS is the company's largest investment to date. The size of the investment reflects Google's faith in the technology and it hopes that other companies will follow its example and make similar investments in renewable energy.

41 comments
Michael Mantion
Someone should tell google that wind turbines would of been a far better investment. Not only would it have a much smaller foot print and thus much less environmental impact. it would also be cheaper, faster and at far less risk. Maybe this is all part of Googles plan to make a mighty weapon to zap satellites out of the sky... IF so I hope they record it and put it on youtube..
t2af
^ maybe they have already read this : \"Wind and wave farms could affect Earth\'s energy balance\" & \"The sun is our only truly renewable energy source\" http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028063.300-wind-and-wave-energies-are-not-renewable-after-all.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news
Gabriel Mak
How much cheaper are wind turbines? I believe 1 blade on a 3 blade wind turbine costs $2million. 1 solar panel costs $15,000 from Samsung. Just wondering about the math behind your comment.
Mckevin
Let\'s see, 392 MW on 3200 acres is about 109 kW/acre. There are 4047 sq meters per acre, so this works out to 27 W/sq m. If we take a conservative 300W/sq m for 24 hrs of sunshine that works out to an efficiency of 9%. That\'s kind of sad, really.
Bicycle Commuter
@Michael I was talking with a bloke that builds and repairs blades for wind turbines and he said their is about a ton of waist from each blade constructed. Also when repairing the blades, all dust and chemicals generated from the repair, floats over the nearby land. The turbine companies \"reimburse\" the local farmers (if any) for estimated loss crops from these repairs. \"thus much less environmental impact\"? I truly wonder. Go solar go.
Desert Tripper
I thought Stirling clusters were the wave of the future for solar. Steam cycles are inherently inefficient - about 40% of the input energy just goes out the condenser. On the other hand, Stirling engines convert heat directly into mechanical energy, bypassing the Rankine cycle. As an added bonus, each Stirling cluster is independent of the others. One goes out, the rest keep generating.
EGM
Wind - Solar - Wave ... we need all forms of clean energy to offset dirty energy now in use. 9% efficiency is NOT the issue, there\'s millions of acres of desert, it\'s $ per Watt ! AUSRA in Nevada has estimated that a plot of desert 192 miles on a side could power the entire USA ! All we need is $ invested to build the solar plants, as stated in the article.
DWH
The Roscoe Wind Farm (largest in the US) has a capacity of 781MW, cost a billion dollars to setup and occupies nearly 100,000 acres of land (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roscoe_Wind_Farm). This article implies that all 3 solar plants will be setup on the same 3200 acres when completed, with a final generation capacity of 1,300 MW. In comparison, it\'s not sad at all. Actually, its more like Wow!
sutski123
@Michael The USA has thousands of square miles of blisteringly hot desert that is not used for ANYTHING. Solar power towers are the ultimate solution for the world. Turbines, while romantically nice, didn't even work for the millers of ancient Holland!! (They had to keep getting up in the middle of the night, or whenever it was windy to mill!!). Nothing has changed!! Whilst solar does not work at night, the advances in salt batteries and for power storage are gathering pace.... As regards risk?? Pointing sunlight at a tube of water is hardly a risk??!!
Chris7527
Where did California find the wind for wind turbines. They have Sun, so only plausible investment is make electricity out of Sun. Just putting a number of wind turbines doesnt really give better results, you have to calculate wind speed and at what altitude