Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
|Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System|
Looking north towards Ivanpah Facility's eastern boiler tower from Interstate 15.
|Location||near Ivanpah, San Bernardino County, California|
|Construction cost||$2.2 billion|
|CSP technology||Solar power tower|
|Site area||3,500 acres (1,420 ha)|
|Make and model||Siemens|
|Nameplate capacity||Ivanpah 1 has a total capacity of 126 MW and Ivanpah 2 and 3 are both 133 MW each. (installed)
392 MW gross, 377 MW net (max. planned)
|Annual generation||1,000 GW·h|
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a solar thermal power project in the California Mojave Desert, 64 km (40 miles) southwest of Las Vegas, with a planned gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). It deploys 173,500 heliostats, each with two mirrors, focusing solar energy on boilers located on three centralized solar power towers. Unit 1 of the project was connected to the grid in September 2013 in an initial sync testing. The facility formally opened on February 13, 2014, and the three units were expected to be operational before the end of 2014, making it the world's largest solar thermal power station.
The project was developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel. It cost $2.2 billion; the largest investor in the project is NRG Energy, a generating company based in Princeton, New Jersey, that has contributed $300 million. Google has contributed $168 million. The project received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy. The estimated construction costs for the project ($5,561.00 per KW) fall between the construction costs for coal and nuclear power plants, according to Synapse Energy Economics, but this does not account for the less favorable capacity factor of solar power. The project attracted some controversy because of its location on a desert habitat considered by wildlife officials and environmentalists to be important for the threatened desert tortoise.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System consists of three solar thermal power plants on a 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) tract of public land near the Mojave Desert and the California—Nevada border in the Southwestern United States.; this is near Interstate 15 and north of Ivanpah, California. The site is visible from adjacent Mojave National Preserve, Mesquite Wilderness, and Stateline Wilderness.
The facility consists of fields of heliostat mirrors focusing sunlight on receivers located on centralized solar power towers. The receivers generate steam to drive specially adapted steam turbines. For the first plant, the largest ever fully solar-powered steam turbine-generator set was ordered, using a 123-megawatt (165,000 hp) Siemens SST-900 single-casing reheat turbine. Besides steam-turbine generators Siemens supplied instrumentation and control systems. Final approval was gained in October 2010. On October 27, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and other dignitaries gathered in the Mojave Desert to officially break ground on the project. The project generated controversy because of BrightSource's decision to build it on ecologically intact desert habitat. Project construction was temporarily halted in the spring of 2011 due to the impacts on desert tortoises, although construction resumed.
The project has received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. The total cost of the project is about $2.18 billion. BrightSource has contracts to sell about two-thirds of the power generated at Ivanpah to PG&E, and the rest to SCE.
The largest investor in the project is NRG Energy, a generating company based in Princeton, N.J., that has put in $300 million. The project has also received an investment of $168 million from Google, but in November 2011, Google announced that they would no longer invest in CSP due to the rapid price decline of photovoltaics, and stopped its research on the project.
In February 2012, Ivanpah was awarded the CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) Project of the Year by Solar Power Generation USA.
The Ivanpah plants use BrightSource Energy's "Luz Power Tower 550 technology" (LPT 550):
The LPT 550 solar system produces electricity the same way as traditional power plants – by creating high temperature steam to turn a turbine. BrightSource uses thousands of mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a receiver being developed by Riley Power Inc. filled with water that sits atop a tower. When the sunlight hits the receiver, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine which generates electricity.
Additionally, "the power towers have 'receiver units' at their top on which the mirror fields focus their reflected light. During operation, these receiver units become extremely hot, such that they glow and appear brightly lit high above the ground, these glowing receiver units will be a visible distraction to persons at many of the Key Observation Points, including travelers utilizing I-15."
According to the State of California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission Opening Briefs regarding this project, "the project itself is visually imposing. It would cover roughly 4,000 acres (1,600 ha), most of which would be covered with mirror fields. The panoramic expanse of mirror arrays would present strong textural contrast with the intact, natural character of the desert floor [and] would rise to a height of roughly 459 feet [140 m]; an additional 10 to 15 feet [3–5 m] above that height would consist of lighting to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements."
Elected San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who represents most of the California Mojave Desert' stated that the "project would create jobs for mostly Las Vegas and electricity for mostly San Francisco."
The steam plant is designed for 28.72% gross efficiency.
A claimed capacity factor of 31.4% implies that the plant will operate for 365 days * 24 hours * 31.4% = 2751 hours/year. At 377 MW (net nameplate capacity) constant power, this means a generation of 377 MW * 2751 hours/year = 1,037,127 MW·h/year rounding up to 1.04 TW·h/year.
One heliostat mirror is a 75.6 square feet (7.02 m2) reflecting surface, for a total of 151.2 square feet (14.05 m2) per heliostat. Total plant heliostat reflecting surface results in 173,500 heliostats * 14.05 m2/heliostat = 2,437,144 m2. Based on irradiance, the intercepted solar energy flow is 2.717 MW·h/m2/year * 2,437,144 m2 = 6,621,720 MW·h yearly. Thermal yield, after taking into consideration reflection, transmission, radiation and absorption losses, is about 55%, resulting in a thermal power input to the steam turbines of 6,621,720 MW·h * 55% = 3,641,946 MW·hth. Resulting expected energy output is 3,641,946 MW·hth * 28.72% efficiency = 1,045,967 MW·h/year, rounding up to 1.05 TW·h/year. Lack of published performance data is causing speculation that the plant is not meeting expectations, but it's probably too early to tell.
The Ivanpah installation was estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually. However, according to a blogger, the facility has petitioned the California government for permission to burn enough natural gas to produce 94,749 more tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. It was designed to minimize impacts on the natural environment compared to some photovoltaic solar facilities because the use of heliostats does not require as much grading of the land. However, the facilities is fenced off to keep some terestrial widllife out, and initial studies indicate that birds face the risk of collission with the heliostat mirrors or from burning in solar flux created by the mirror field. 
The Ivanpah Solar power project disturbed 6 square miles of public land in the northeastern Mojave Desert. In 2012 the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) issued a report on the project, citing water concerns, damage to visual resources, and impacts on important desert species. In order to conserve scarce desert water, LPT 550 uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water. Compared to conventional wet-cooling, this results in a 90 percent reduction in water usage. The water is then returned to the boiler in a closed process. Many desert tortoises found on the site were relocated to other parts of the Mojave Desert; however, environmentalists raised concerns that relocated tortoises were more likely to die due to the stresses involved. BrightSource also installed fencing to keep wildlife out of the area. In 2010, the project was scaled back from the original 440-megawatt (590,050 hp) design, to avoid building on the habitat of the desert tortoise.
During the trial of the plant in September 2013, 34 dead birds were found at the plant, 15 of which had heavily burned feathers, which staff at the plant referred to as "streamers" because they were burned in flight by the intense radiation from the heliostat mirrors. In 2014, the number of kills rose exponentially, with estimates ranging between 1,000 and 28,000. The wide variance in estimates may be because some of the deaths were insects lured to the light source. According to a report by the Associated Press, "Ivanpah might act as a “mega-trap” for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays." Possible bird kill mitigation strategies are being considered, and regulators are attempting to determine how many bird deaths would be considered "excessive" enough to order a temporary shutdown of the plant.
Another problem with the Ivanpah facility is the mirror glare affects airline pilots.
- List of solar thermal power stations
- Solar power plants in the Mojave Desert
- Blythe Solar Power Project
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