California-based energy firm SolarReserve just announced plans to expand its massive Nevada concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in order to generate enough renewable energy to power a million US homes. The 110 MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant is the first utility-scale CSP of its kind on American soil, and the developer now says they plan to build 10 more just like it elsewhere in the sunny desert state under the umbrella of a project dubbed Sandstone. The project will take years—and billions of dollars—but, upon completion, will produce enough energy to fully power as many homes as a nuclear power plant or the Hoover Dam, except without all the nasty emissions.
SolarReserve’s plans may be ambitious, but the company has already proven its abilities with the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant near Tonopah. That facility is the first on the planet to employ molten salt power tower technology in a utility scale power plant. The 110MW plant generates enough renewable energy to supply 75,000 homes a year using the technology, which enables the power plant to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Solar heat is used to warm a molten salt energy storage system, which in turn is used to boil water and create a steam turbine to power generators around the clock—all without fossil fuel backups or harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
The $5-billion Sandstone project would produce between 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy, the equivalent used by one million homes, once it reaches full operating capacity, according to an interview with CEO Kevin Smith in the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week.
The competition is stiff in the race to build the world’s largest solar power plant. Earlier this summer, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced its plans to build the world’s largest CSP plant, with a target completion date of 2030, with the first phase generating 200 MW by 2021. If Sandstone comes to fruition, it would be 10 times the size of the Dubai project, and put a huge dent in the reliance on fossil fuels for grid electricity in the western US.
Images via SolarReserve