The World's Largest Concentrated Solar Plant Is Coming to California The World's Largest Concentrated Solar Plant Is Coming to California
Social Innovation

The World's Largest Concentrated Solar Plant Is Coming to California

by Ben Jervey

April 16, 2011

As I've said before, concentrated solar power (the "other" kind of solar—not photovoltaic panels) is a core component of any carbon-free energy future. This week, the United States is one giant step closer to plugging in the world's largest concentrated solar power plant—Brightsource's Ivanpah plant—which will pump out a massive 392 Megawatts of clean, solar energy in the Mojave Desert as soon as 2013. A rendition of the enormous project is above.

The project took a big leap from business plan to reality this week with two serious funding deals. First, Google announced its largest energy investment ever—placing a $168 million bet on Brightsource. The same day, the Department of Energy finalized a whopping $1.6 billion in loan guarantees for the project. "Today's announcement is creating over 1,000 jobs in California," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, "while laying the foundation for thousands more clean energy jobs across the country in the future."

Not familiar with this core clean energy solution? Here's how I described it a couple years ago:

Whereas photovoltaic panels directly convert sunlight into an electric current, concentrated solar uses the sun's heat energy itself to generate power. [...] The intense heat boils the water, which creates steam. The steam spins a turbine, and-voila!-electricity is generated. Under optimum conditions, the plant can churn out 20 megawatts of juice, enough to power 10,000 homes.

I found it interesting that the Department of Energy and Google made these funding announcements on the same day. Such public-private cooperation seems to represent the best path forward for clean energy absent any federal legislation or mandate.

Ben Jervey More Info

Ben is a writer and editor covering climate change, energy, and environment, and is currently the Climate and Energy Media Fellow at Vermont Law School. He was the original Environment Editor at GOOD Magazine and his work has appeared regularly in National Geographic News, Grist, DeSmogBlog, and OnEarth. He recently worked with the non-profit Focus the Nation to publish an Energy 101 primer. When living in New York City, he wrote a book, The Big Green Apple, on how to live a lower impact life in the city. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.
Some recent articles by Ben Jervey:
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The World's Largest Concentrated Solar Plant Is Coming to California