On Thursday, February 13, 2014, the world’s largest solar-thermal power complex, called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, officially opened. Sitting along the California-Nevada border, it stretches across approximately 5 square miles and contains roughly 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors. With a $2.2 billion price tag, the complex is actually made up of three separate energy units (owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google, and BrightSource Energy). It can generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes, and is regarded by some as “a dawn of a new era in power generation in the United States”. It uses technology known as solar-thermal, by which “nearly 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors roughly the size of a garage door reflect sunlight to boilers atop 459-foot towers. The sun’s power is used to heat water in the boilers’ tubes and make steam, which drives turbines to create electricity”.
Though it has yet to be more cost effective than electricity generated by natural gas, coal, or nuclear power, it is a positive step in the right direction in terms of more sustainable energy production. The plant is also positive for Californians, who must obtain a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Solar power may not be the cheapest or most adaptable renewable energy source, but when it comes to generating electricity in sun-soaked areas of our country, it is a good alternative to fossil fuels.
What do you think about the future of solar power? Leave a comment below!