The Department of the Interior (DOI) has just approved the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the first large-scale solar energy project in the United States to utilise ‘power tower’ technology. The solar ‘power tower’ has been proposed for the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California by BrightSource Energy, and it will produce up to 370 megawatts of clean energy. This energy would be enough to power between 111,000 to 277,500 American homes, and the project will create over 1,000 jobs.

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The DOI decision, grants the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to give BrightSource a 30 year right-of-way grant to use the public lands if all rents and other conditions are met.

The thing that makes the Ivanpah project different from other solar projects is that it uses innovative technology that, when completed, will include three solar thermal power plants. The power tower technology employs fields of mirrors to focus solar energy on power tower receivers near the center of each array. Steam from solar boilers in the towers is then used to drive a turbine that generates electricity for the transmission grid.

With the Department of Interior’s approval, construction is now expected to take place with the project scheduled to finish in 2013. To further lessen the project’s environmental impact the BLM has reduced the size of the project by more than 15%, from 4,073 acres to 3,471 acres; it has also reduced the number of heliostats (solar mirrors) from 214,000 to 173,500. Solar tower projects have previously been scheduled for construction in Spain and the Sahara Desert.

+ Department of Interior

Via EERE News