NRG Commissions World’s Largest Solar Plant

NRG Solar PlantIn February, NRG Inc. announced that its Ivanpah power tower project achieved commercial operation on Dec. 31. The plant’s three 450-foot high towers produce a total of 392 megawatts (MW), enough electricity to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles from the road.

Ivanpah is a joint effort between NRG, Google and BrightSource Energy. The engineering and construction contractor is Bechtel. The project received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Ivanpah, for now, is the largest operating solar project in the world.

It uses 173,500 heliostats that follow the sun’s trajectory guided by proprietary software, and the solar receiver produces steam to drive a conventional turbine generator.

Construction began in October 2010, and at peak employed nearly 3,000 site workers who completed more than 8.35 million man-hours.

NRG expects construction and operating payrolls to total about $650 million over the next 30 years.

Units 1 and 3 send power to Pacific Gas and Electric under two long-term power purchase agreements. Unit 2 operates under a PPA with Southern California Edison.

Business and mainstream press reported that Ivanpah has been killing birds, and that concentrating solar power (CSP) technology faces low-cost competition from photovoltaic (PV) solar farms.

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