California’s solar energy future is looking to become a lot brighter: an agreement was just made between the BrightSource Energy Company, and the US Fortune 500 company NRG Energy LLC. The joint project, a 392 megawatt solar thermal power plant, will be built over a period of 3 years will provide enough electricity to more than 140,000 homes in California. Developers broke ground on the plant, endorsed by President Obama, this week.
NRG Energy, through its subsidiary, NRG Solar, issued a letter of intent to construct the thermal solar plant together with BrightSource will provide funding of $300 million over a three year period to construct the plant, which is slated to become fully operational by the end of 2013. The project has already received a $1.375 billion conditional commitment from the US Department of Energy for a loan guarantee, and has obtained all permits and approvals from both federal and California state agencies.
A BrightSource thermal solar energy plant
Bright Source, a company that has been written about a number of times on Green Prophet, has had a bumpy road to success and at one time its plans to build a smaller solar thermal plant in Ivanpah was shelved due it being blocked by Wildlands Conservancy, a California-based enviro group, as well as by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, who suggested the area become a national monument.
More recently BrightSource and Solar Millennium LLC were accused by Native American tribes of planning to build their concentrated solar power plant on sacred tribal burial land.
But despite these issues, BrightSource’s solar energy future seems much more promising, thanks to the NRG partnership. NRG is a company that not only holds a spot on the coveted Fortune 500 list, but owns and operates one of the country’s largest and most diverse power generation portfolios. NRG provides more than 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, which is enough to supply more than 20 million homes.
When completed, the Ivanpah plant will produce double the entire present amount of electricity presently provided by all the present solar thermal power plants in the USA. The Ivanpah project has been lauded by US President Barack Obama, who said recently in a televised speech that:
“With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy, In the pledge they recently released, the Republican leadership is promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway — even with all the jobs and potential that they hold.”
As contrasted to solar energy projects using photovoltaic (PV) solar panel installations like the many being built in Israel thermal solar energy uses concentrated solar power, and sunlight is reflected and magnified by mirrors onto a point in a tower. The intense heat generated is used to boil liquid, creating steam that then turns electrical turbines.
For this purpose a certain amount of water will therefore be needed to create the steam that will power the turbines. And in water hungry California; especially in desert land where the plant will be built, providing enough water may be a challenge in itself in addition to building on sacred Native American land.
Read more on BrightSource Energy and NRG Energy: