February 17th marked the celebration of full operation at the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s biggest concentrating solar power tower project. The celebration was attended by technology originator BrightSource Energy (BSE), owner NRG Energy, builder Bechtel, and major equity investor Google.
DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz was at the celebration and he noted, “Four of the world’s five biggest CSP projects and the first five U.S. utility-scale PV projects were supported by DOE loan guarantees.” Moniz continued, “As a result, none of the next ten utility-scale solar installations required federal support.”
In the face of California’s severe drought, Moniz added that Ivanpah’s dry-cooling technology allows for a “parsimonious use of water.” For Bechtel’s 2,700 employees, assembling Ivanpah’s 173,000 heliostats and constructing its three 460-foot tall towers became “this generation’s legacy, its Hoover Dam, its testament to U.S. ingenuity,” according to Bechtel power division president Toby Seay.
Ivanpah’s integration into California’s grid, BSE Chair/CEO David Ramm said, was performed in planned stages and without unexpected events.What they did not mention was the giant tent-like facility made from construction materials, originally developed for use in Iraq, that was built at Ivanpah to assemble heliostats. Designed to turn out 500 per day, it was actually able to turn out 650 twinned, garage-door sized mirrors per day at the height of Ivanpah’s construction.