Google has recently announced the construction of a new solar power plant in the Mojave Desert, California. BrightSource Energy is the local developing company in charge of the project and the power plant itself is known under the name of Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS).
Why is this different from other solar power plants?
The reason is that it uses the power tower system. Successful in the U.S. but less known abroad, the technology rests on the idea of a power tower collecting all the energy reflected in mirrors. Not just any mirrors, but heliostats, which reflect and direct the light towards a solar receiver on a tower.
All that light gathered in one place generates steam at high pressure and a temperature of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. These will be used to spin a regular turbine and generator to finally produce electricity.
Started in October 2010, the Ivanpah is the first solar power system this big, but the project is so efficient that i’s worth investing $168 millions in it. After Bechtel finishes the construction in 2013, it is expected to produce a gross of 392 MW its existence of minimum 25 years. It will use 173,000 heliostats, each made up of 2 mirrors and the tower itself will be 450 feet high.
According to Rick Needham, director of Green Business Operations, they are very keen on investing in the clean energy sector (over $259 million invested so far). As mentioned on the official Google blog, their goal is not to improve but “to transform” the energy sector altogether, the investments being destined to “significantly reduce costs on future projects.”
Other funds for the Ivanpah project come from NRG and the U.S. Department of Energy. By the looks of it, Google has invested its money wisely and is expected to offset the costs on the project within a short time.