The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System’s first unit was synced to the grid for the first time on Sept. 24. The other two units of the 392 megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant will be tested soon as the project, the largest of its kind in the world, reaches completion. BrightSource Energy, which designed the tower system and is co-owner along with Google and NRG Energy, is calling this a major milestone for the project.
The validation of the technology will help BrightSource and other CSP companies as they develop plans for more CSP systems throughout the world.
“This is yet another major milestone that we have successfully achieved as Ivanpah approaches completion,” said David Ramm, Executive Chairman of BrightSource Energy, Inc. “Ivanpah is the showcase project for BrightSource’s power tower technology and technical expertise. Validation at this scale demonstrates the viability of our technology as BrightSource increases focus on international markets and applications for concentrating solar power.”
The power tower units are surrounded by a field of heliostats that track the sun and concentrate sunlight hundreds of times onto the tower. The tower unit superheats water into steam, which is then used to power a steam turbine to generate electricity. The process is just like a coal-fired power plant, but without the waste of an external fuel supply.
“Given the magnitude and complexity of Ivanpah, it was very important that we successfully complete this milestone showing all systems were on track,” Tom Doyle, President of NRG Solar, stated. “We couldn’t be more excited about achieving ‘first sync,’ and we share this success with our project partners, BrightSource and Google, as well as Bechtel, which is responsible for engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning on the project.”
Google, which invested in the project, shared in congratulatory back-slapping, calling the project a transformative energy project. “We’re excited about the project achieving this first sync—a landmark event along the path to completion. Congratulations to the many people who have worked so hard to get this far,” added Rick Needham, Director of Energy and Sustainability at Google.
The electricity generated by the first unit - both now and after testing - is being purchased by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which also has a contract to purchase the power from the 3rd unit of the Ivanpah project in the Mojave desert. Each is under a separate power-purchase agreement. The second unit is under a PPA with Southern California Edison.
The project is being built by Bechtel. “The achievement of this major milestone was possible through the tireless efforts of the entire project team—from the craft to the field engineers and technical experts,” said Toby Seay, President of Bechtel’s power global business unit. “With the cooperation of Ivanpah’s owners, we have been able to bring to life a world-class solar project that will help California meet its renewable energy goals safely and effectively.