World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant 84% Complete

by | Mar 6, 2013

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is more than 84 percent complete and has reached a milestone with more than 1,000 heliostats focused onto the Ivanpah Unit 1 solar receiver, creating the “first flux,” according BrightSource Energy, the technology provider for the project.

Solar flux is when a significant amount of sunlight is reflected off of the solar field mirrors. The flux slowly heats the water inside the boiler to below the point of steam.

When completed by the end of the year, the 392 MW Ivanpah will be the world’s largest solar thermal plant. The project, located in Ivanpah Dry Lake, Calif., on about 3,500 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert, is owned by NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy.

BrightSource’s Gil Kroyzer, VP modeling and solar field design, says the company is now focusing on reaching the point where it can place a full load of heliostats onto the boiler and push the project towards commercial operation. This month, the team will place additional flux on the boiler and begin producing steam to test the steam pressure. When a certain level of pressure is reached, the system will be ready for steam blows to clear out any debris inside the pipes so that it does not damage the steam turbine once operational.

The US solar photovoltaics market installed 684 MW in the third quarter of 2012, representing 44 percent growth over the same period last year, according to a December 2012 report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The report says developers completed 21 utility projects (or phases of projects) in Q3, ranging from 300 kW to 115 MW. Currently, 2.1 GWdc of utility PV projects are operating in the US, while 10 GW of projects with PPAs are not yet operating. Of this 10 GW, the report says 3 GW comes from the 10 largest projects in construction — including Ivanpah — all of which will be selling power to utilities in California.


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