Gallery: World’s Largest Solar Power Plant Coming To CA Mojave Desert

Solar-Thermal Plant by BrightSource Energy
Solar-Thermal Plant by BrightSource Energy

With California utilities expanding rapidly into renewables, the Mojave Desert is one of the hottest spots for solar energy. Last year, plans for the world’s largest solar array got underway in this ideal energy harvesting setting and the latest news is just as groundbreaking. Pacific Gas and Electric recently signed the world’s largest solar deal to date, teaming up with BrightSource Energy to produce three new solar-thermal electric plants for a whopping 500 megawatts of clean green power. The $2 to $3 billion dollar deal provides options for additional plants (up to 900 megawatts total), which would be enough to power 375,000 Californian homes!

California law currently requires PG&E to produce 20% of its power via renewable sources by 2010, which is one of the factors driving this deal. The energy giant has been hard at work signing contracts, diversifying its renewable portfolio to include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric sources. Fong Wan, vice president of energy procurement, states “Solar-thermal energy is an especially attractive renewable power source because it is available when needed most in California – during the peak mid-day summer period.”

The arid expanse of California’s Mojave desert shows world-class potential for BrightSource’s solar technology, which utilizes thousands of mirrors to focus solar energy upon a boiler, where water is vaporized to to drive turbines. The solar-thermal plants will utilize Brightsource Energy’s proprietary Distributed Power Tower technology, which claims to be much more energy efficient than past parabolic trough designs.

The plants will employ thousands of tiny, flat movable mirrors called heliostats to focus and concentrate the sun’s energy upon a water boiler, heating it to more than 1,000 degrees. This generates steam, which in turn drives a turbine to generate electricity. Plants will consist of clusters of these “solar fields”, with each tower producing 20 megawatts of power. BrightSource predicts that the plants’ large scale, low production cost, and relative reliability will allow them to compete with carbon fuels on price point.

The first plant is scheduled for a 2011 opening in Ivanpah, California, and should produce 246,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity per year. As many as 4 plants will follow as permits and infrastructure allow. Brightsource Energy’s president John Woolard states “From what I know, this is the biggest commitment ever in the history of solar”.

+ PG&E

+ BrightSource Energy

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  1. willieaames25 March 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    In the meantime, we waste our petroleum created energy like addicts on a bend, leaving our big screen TV’s plugged in, and our air conditioners running on perfect, 72-degree days when the windows could just be cracked open. Mckinsey & Company recently discovered we could reduce our dependence on oil-based-energy by simply doing common sense things like fixing leaking faucets or turning our water heaters down. More than $1.3 trillion in energy waste savings comes with some simple lifestyle changes.


  2. D.Walton8 April 1, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    It renderes itself in dispensible to our vitality in some manner I feal fit either wise dispensible /win itself.M.A./D.W. As seen fullfilling it is necessary to grant such aleviating source oppertunities for the collaboration of the grid integrity while current placement of a divisible contingency is neccesary todue-l-configure seems more than computable.

  3. Nastaran December 22, 2010 at 1:34 am

    We need pure solar energy not solar thermal one.By using solar panels ,and we need to have multi use of the land ,like digging for water to grow vegetables,flowers, or raise chickens,natural and free range of course,under the shadows of these solar panels ,like the way the land is wisely used in Japan and Israel.The panels should be installed on two 7-8 feet high poles in north to south arrays and be able to rotate around a central rod attached to these two poles to have prependicular positions to the sunrays at all times of the day .According to the movement of the sun during the day from east to west,so to get the most out of the sunlight like the way we Bar-B-Que a chicken rotessorie.We can even install small wind turbines on top of these poles and harvest both types of energy.The type of Mohave solar thermal energy is not advanced technology. It is too little too late and it is a lame duck use of the sunlight.
    Using solar panels and small wind fans on every roof in California is another way of securing a great harvest of energy.The high price of homes in California makes the price of these panels and their instalations sound reasonable .We can even sell energy to other states or countries because of our wheather system,topography, and geography.Tell this also to the government of Iran who is trying to go nuclear while that country is a collassal raised bed ideal for harvesting solar and wind energy.
    It is frustrating to see how slow people move toward sanity(no noise,no smog ,no asthma,and no nuclear fall out) when it comes to energy use.

  4. jeromeww2 July 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Plant trees and shade your ac unit, don’t leave it in the sun trying to cool, like the one person said, just one part of the answer…..diesel engines pull the coal, and tons of water used to keep the dust down, moving it on conveyors, less people loosing their lives in mines, but over time everything will adjust…but remember the people benefit due to the power companies are allowed to recoup the cost of fuel, that is a big part of our power bill.

  5. dpberry May 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    If these were placed throughout the world with a global \”UN type\” effort, when the conditions are cloudy or dark in one area, they are condcive in another. A world grid could become a great thing. It would have to be governed by a \”UN type\” body. It would also remove Iran\’s excuse for enriching plutonium, and remove the strangle hold that OPEC has on all of us. In fact, the Talliban would lose strenght. The world would be a great place of peacefull people!

  6. Slingo March 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Feinstein Seeks To Block Solar Power From California Desert Land. That says it all, you will never get it past our girl Feinstein. Solar panels in the Mojave Desert will distroy the Desert Tortus population. Go drill in the ocean.

  7. Rainer Dickermann January 25, 2009 at 1:09 am

    It is amazing how many people take for granted that solar power must be expensive! If I consider how much security technology has to be put into a nuclear power plant, why is it cheaper than solar power? Think about it! Then, who says nuclear power is *clean*? It is dangerous! People have forgotten about accidents of the past – or recent one’s in France? Plutonium in the water – thank you very much! BTW, solar power will show its full potential when used to generate synthesis-gas: 2 H2 + CO2 -> H2O + H2CO. Not only can this gas be used like normal gas, it is also useful to create all kinds of chemicals that we are using oil for nowadays! And do you see: it is *consuming* CO2! How amazing!

  8. frflyer November 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Anyone interested in this subject should read the excellent article on solar thermal at:


    Nuclear has more hurdles to jump than red tape.
    It is completely unsustainable.
    This is a must read article before considering nuclear power.

    One of nuclear’s biggest negatives is the enormous amount of water needed to cool the reactor. This isn’t a problem with solar thermal, which can be water or air cooled. Even when water cooled, the amount of water is miniscule compared to that required by nuclear.


    Geothermal is fine, but has nowhere near the overall potential of solar.

    Listen to fireofenergy. He has it right.

    The url for the Scientific American article someone mentioned is.
    I don’t agree with their emphasis on concentrating PV verses solar thermal, but the article shows what we can do and how we can pay for it.

  9. anitha jasmine October 27, 2008 at 2:18 am

    actually i opened this site for assignment i think now i got a part of search here

  10. fireofenergy October 19, 2008 at 10:41 am

    America is watching the icecaps melt (and our economy too). This is because we are sending billions of dollars overseas every week!

    Please consider Concentrated Solar Thermal as America’s main power plant. Why? Because CST stores the suns energy as heat for ON DEMAND electricity.

    CST works by using lots of mirrors that reflect sunlight to heat a fluid which fills a resevoir.

    CST is the only energy source that can provide the USA with unlimited clean energy!

    CST would be cheaper than complete CO2 sequesteration needed for clean coal if governments help support its massive deployment. (All energy options have recieved government help)

    CST would also be cheaper than nuclear (they both need help).

    CST only uses desert land, not forests. And can supply the world with unlimited energy.

    Since all renewable energy is labor intinsive, millions of jobs and millions more of secondary jobs would boost the economy such that governments would probably get more taxes back.

    And finally, CST would be much welcomed by most people, unlike “clean coal” and nuclear. There are very few emissions associated with solar.

  11. September 1, 2008 at 1:41 am

    I think geothermal can be more than competitive with solar and other forms of energy production, including coal.

    And Geo is naturally 24-7. Further, Geo sources are plentiful in the western US.

    Maybe the Geo lobby isn’t as powerful as some of these other energy groups???

  12. Cuthb809 July 3, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    this type of solar thermal energy is really cheap and one of the most efficient. I am writing a report on this, so here are some facts. the new type of clean coal power plants cost 14 million per MW. this solar plant will only cost 3.3 million per MW. the only type of power that can compete with that price and is clean is nuclear, but there is sooooo much red tape to jump through to get one built it is currently not an option…. but it will be soon

  13. Inhabitat » Green... May 30, 2008 at 3:12 pm

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  15. jack April 12, 2008 at 10:39 am

    On line in 2011, why not tomorrow? There is a solar power plant sitting idle in Barstow, CA., built back in the Carter Administration. It is just sitting out in the mojave, I know it is not in use because when it was in operation the boiler tower glow made you squint. Everyone who has driven to Vegas or L.A. passes the plant it is just east of the Marine Base. With all the talk about green energy, I can’t understand why they haven’t switched the place back on. In fact I don’t understand why they ever shut the place off, since it was built with taxpayers money? It was touted as a liquid salt boiler system.
    Also does anyone know what happen to California Edison’s revolutionary photo voltaic material that was announced on the front page of the L.A. Times years ago. I remember that it was a sheet material that could be rolled out and stapled to roofs, it had tiny glass balls inbeded into the material. That was the first and last time I heard anything about the product, what happen?

  16. MilwaukeeUndergrad April 11, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Night time is not the peak in demand, it is just the opposite. This is why some commercial and educational buildings have shifted to using energy to freeze water at night and then using it almost as a chiller during the day… the ice is produced during low demand periods.

    It is great to see alternative energy sources being utilized more and more frequently.

  17. not so awkward April 11, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    your referring to the evening when most corporate business’s close at 5-6PM and the AC is turned down for the day right?

  18. geofff April 11, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Good question Dr. Awkward. In the southwest, in the summer time, daytime use of energy is a peak period due to business hours and air conditioning use. However, there are ways to save the excess heat energy for use during the night. One way is to heat molten salt and put it in a container. This molten salt can be tapped to generate power longer into the night. Another way is to compress air into large underground chambers. The natural gas industry already does this for storing excess natural gas. Scientific American has an interesting article on this. Even so, no one is proposing this kind of solar power as the solution to all of our energy needs. It\’s just a part of the overall solution. All of the energy produced by these installations will reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

  19. zbeast April 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    flywheels my boy fly wheels…
    No I really have no idea what you do at night or on cloudy days or during times when
    the the mirrors need cleaning. I have no idea is this power system is cheap..
    Ya, ya but suns free man but… it does cost a lot to build these power stations so do they
    make more in money than it cost to run? Just because its “green” does not mean its good.

  20. World’s Largest Solar... April 11, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    […] World’s Largest Solar Power Plant […]

  21. Dr. Awkward April 11, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    So how do they account for the sudden drop in energy generation at nightfall, right in the middle of peak time? Not a criticism; it’s just something that needs to be dealt with and I’d like to know how.

  22. spacecadet April 11, 2008 at 10:00 am


  23. bloggers mosaic April 10, 2008 at 10:24 am

    with oil hits 112 invest in africa the big saharah will help the poor people and support earth plus generate enough power for europe

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