CSP technology uses mirrors to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver from which a heat transfer fluid carries the thermal energy to a power block to generate electricity. The technology can generate energy even when the sun isn’t shining, helping to provide clean power at times of peak demand.
The Energy Department’s new report, 2014: The Year of Concentrating Solar Power, focuses on five of the most innovative CSP plants in the world. All of these projects are expected to be switched on in the southwestern United States by the end of the year as a result of sustained, long-term investments by the Department and committed solar industry partners.
These five new utility-scale CSP plants will have the capacity to generate power for more than 350,000 average American homes.
Loan guarantees are an instrumental way the Energy Department helps technologies like CSP get the financing they historically have trouble accessing for their first few commercial projects. Through successful public-private partnerships, it is being proven that CSP is a commercially viable energy source in the U.S.
The five CSP plants:
- Solana near Gila Bend, Arizona, was developed by Abengoa Solar, Inc., and opened in October 2013. The plant can dispatch energy to customers as needed during cloudy periods and after sunset. As the first power plant in the U.S. to use molten salt thermal energy storage, Solana generates electricity well into the evening to help meet the summer peak demand for air conditioning.
- Genesis in Blythe, California, was developed by NextEra Energy Sources, LLC, and opened in April. Genesis expects to produce renewable electricity annually from more than 500,000 parabolic mirrors to power 60,000 average American homes.
- Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in Ivanpah Dry Lake, California, was developed by BrightSource Energy and opened in February. The system uses over 300,000 software-controlled mirrors to track the sun across the sky and reflect the sunlight onto three towers. Ivanpah has the capacity to produce 392 megawatts of power and is expected to serve nearly 100,000 average American homes.
- Crescent Dunes in Tonopah, Nevada, is being developed by SolarReserve and is expected to open by the end of the year. When completed, approximately 10,000 heliostats will be installed, and Crescent Dunes will be the nation’s first commercial-scale solar power tower facility with energy storage.
- Mojave Solar One near Barstow, California, is being developed by Abengoa Solar and is expected to open later this year. The plant is expected to produce 250 megawatts of power and is one of the largest projects of its kind in the world.