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Summary:

Ivanpah, the huge solar farm in the California desert, has now delivered its first power to the grid.

An aerial view of Ivanpah with towers 2 and 3 in the background

The massive solar thermal farm Ivanpah, located in the desert about 45 minutes south of Las Vegas, has produced and delivered its first energy to the power grid this week. The milestone is a major one that indicates the farm is almost ready to be fully turned on.

Ivanpah is a new kind of next-gen solar farm that uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays onto large towers that heat liquids and run steam turbines to create electricity. The more traditional solar systems that are most building on rooftops use solar panels to convert the sun’s light into electricity.

Sea of heliostats at Ivanpah 1When Ivanpah is switched on this year it will use 170,000 mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto three massive, 450-foot towers to produce solar electricity. The first tower of Ivanpah — called Ivanpah 1 — will sell its power to utility PG&E. Ivanpah 3 will also sell power to PG&E, while Ivanpah 2 will supply Southern California Edison.

Ivanpah is the first of its kind at this scale, and represents a new wave of solar power that is being built in the California deserts. The entire site will deliver 392 MW of power, which is on par with a medium-sized fossil fuel power plant. Energy storage and natural gas turbine technology will help the solar farm deliver closer to baseload power (meaning it could run more like a 24/7 coal plant) with greater power reliability than a solar panel farm.

To be sure, Ivanpah wasn’t cheap. It’s costing billions of dollars to build, and includes a big chunk of the funds coming via a loan guarantee from the U.S. government.

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  1. Katie, get your facts straight, please. Ivanpah will only deliver 377 MWe Net (after parasitic loads) to the grid. 392 MWe is the gross figure and I am tired of BS cheerleaders misquoting the true capacity of Ivanpah. Don’t believe me? See the BS Ivanpah project page here:

    http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-solar-project

    “A 377 megawatt net solar complex using mirrors to focus…”

    The Abengoa Solana cheerleaders do the same thing when they state its capacity as 280 MWe. The energy that any power plant delivers to the grid is based on its net capacity not its gross capacity because all power plants consume some of their own output in order to run.

    Finally, Ivanpah is the first and last of its kind. CSP is way too expensive with little hope of lowering the ~$125/MWh LCOE at Ivanpah to the ~$70/MWh levels commonly seen from utility scale PV projects today.

  2. P.S. Why not report the actual cost of Ivanpah instead of just saying, “It’s costing billions of dollars to build…” Sloppy. Before they pulled their sure to be doomed IPO, BS listed the cost to build Ivanpah as $2.2 billion in their Form S-1 filings with the SEC. The $2.2 Billion figure is also shown on this page on the BS website:

    http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-and-the-doe-loan-guarantee-program

    Note also that $1.6 billion of Ivanpah’s capital cost is backed by U.S. DOE loan guarantees. Building the next one without the cheap debt that the loan guarantee made possible will be next to impossible because no one will want the overpriced energy from the next one…

    1. There is no chance the projects will require DOE guarantees to kick in, given the long-term utility contracts. 2 billion isn’t billions? That’s silly nit-picking, find another hobby.

  3. Amazing project….let’s go green!

  4. Thanks for the story. It’s interesting how a predominantly solar plant is generating flatter, baseload-like power.

    1. Per the PG&E Advice letter found here:

      http://www.pge.com/nots/rates/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_3703-E.pdf

      Ivanpah’s capacity factor is a mere 29.4%.

      Hardly “baseload-like” power unless you live in India or some other banana republic….

    2. flatter because of gas turbines….so not really green. All they did was figure it out for the utility and put it in a nice package. Otherwise utilities throw their hands up because they can’t figure out how to flatten load on their own?

  5. Flatter because they use gas turbines…….way to go solar, fml =(

    BS added capacity the utility would have added if they contracted a bunch of pv.

  6. I want factual info as i’m sure most everyone does, (except those with their own agenda). But it baffles me why most everyone from either side has to throw rocks (derogatory statements and name calling) at the other. I am passionate about solar too, I run my own solar business, but I’ll be darned if I won’t listen to reasoning from the other side so i can understand where their reasoning came from. If we just make each other angry none of us accomplish any progress. It’s ok to take a jab in jest, but please, add a :-) to it so we know!
    Every statement should be followed with a link to show where the info came from so it can be verified. OK children ;-) you can come back out and play…….but play nice. Like you would teach your own kids.

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