California's Record-Breaking New Solar Plant Is Already Irrelevant

Last week, dozens of people, including Google energy chief Rick Needham and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, trekked out to the California-Nevada border in the middle of the Death Valley to dedicate what is believed to be the world's largest solar thermal facility in the world.
 
At 392 megawatts, the Ivanpah solar thermal plant will be able to power 140,000 homes — the equivalent of all of Newark (averaging two people per household).
 
We covered the project when BrightSource, the main developer behind the project, first put up a stunning 3-D tour of the site.
 
But for all its scale and beauty, in terms of the future of renewables, Ivanpah is already irrelevant.  
 
Solar thermal creates electricity by using mirrors to direct intense amounts of heat at a centralized collector, which is used to heat a substance like water to create steam power. Solar photovoltaic, meanwhile, directly converts solar energy into electricity through semiconductors.
 
If solar thermal sounds unnecessarily complicated, you're right. Solar photovoltaic has seen explosive growth in the past few years thanks to plummeting material costs, state incentives, and eco-conscious homebuyers putting up panels on their roofs.  But solar thermal growth has stalled, and is expected to continue to do so.  Ivanpah cost $2.2 billion. Warren Buffett paid the same amount for the world's largest photovoltaic plant just up the road outside Bakersfield. That plant will generate 1.5-times as much power as Ivanpah. 
 
As the New York Times' Diane Cardwell and Matt Wald wrote Friday, Ivanpah probably represents an end, not a beginning. 

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

AllEarth Renewables - The Solar Tracker

AllEarth Renewables - The Solar Tracker

Designed and manufactured in the U.S., the AllEarth Solar Tracker is a complete grid-tied, dual-axis solar electric system that produces up to 45% more electricity than fixed systems. The tracker uses GPS and wireless technology to follow the sun throughout the day for optimal energy production. It has an industry-leading 10 year warranty and 120 mph wind rating, superior snow shedding, and automatic high wind protection. Its simple, durable design and complete system pallet simplifies costly procurement and installation time. Contact us about becoming a dealer partner.