The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s largest solar project, has begun delivering solar electricity to California homes last week.
The solar thermal plant, owned by NRG Energy, Brightsource Energy, and Google, can produce 392 megawatts of solar power at full capacity, enough to provide clean energy to 140,000 homes and eliminate 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
The plant, located in Ivanpah Dry Lake in California, is a three-unit power system and has over 300,000 software-controlled mirrors that track the sun in three dimensions and reflect sunlight to boilers on top of three 450-foot tall towers. The sunlight strikes the boilers’ tubes and this heats up the water to create superheated steam. The steam is run through pipes to a standard turbine where electricity is generated. The electricity is then carried through transmission lines to homes and businesses.
Though the solar project could be a big player in renewable energy, it has raised environmental concerns because the technology seems to be killing birds that fly over the plant. The dead birds showed signs of being burned or singed from the intense heat surrounding the towers. According to an article on The Wall Street Journal, these findings raised concerns about other solar plants that are being planned for other areas.
The Ivanpah project started contruction in 2010 and became commercially operational on December 31st last year.
Images: Brightsource Energy