Google yesterday said it would invest $168 million into the Ivanpah solarthermal power plant being erected by BrightSource Energy, as themelodrama of solar thermal approaches its boiling climax.
The Ivanpah plant, rated at 392 megawatts, is slated to be the first in a series of large solar thermal plants from BrightSource. The companyhas additional power contracts for 1,300 megawatts with SouthernCalifornia Edison and 1,310 megawatts with Pacific Gas & Electric.
Other developers/technology providers like Solar Reserve, Areva Solarand Solar Millennium have similar plans. Areva is slated to makeannouncements about large power plant projects soon.
The technology underlying Ivanpah and many of the other new projectsdiffers from conventional solar thermal power plants. At Ivanpah, fields of relatively flat, computer-controlled mirrors will focus the heat ofthe sun onto a water tank to create steam. The steam ultimately powers a turbine. The architecture, says BrightSource, can more economically and efficiently capture and transfer energy than the traditional systemsthat use parabolic mirrors to heat oil in tubes. BrightSource shouldknow: It grew out of a parabolic company called Luz that built some ofthe most successful parabolic fields ever erected.