February 13, 2014 - NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG), through its wholly owned subsidiary NRG Solar, LLC, today announced that the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is now operational and delivering solar electricity to California customers. At full capacity, the facility’s trio of 450-foot high towers produces a gross total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power, 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 off the road.
Located in the Mojave desert near the California / Nevada border , Ivanpah is a joint effort between NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy. Bechtel is the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor on the project. The project received Google invested $168 million in the project. The project also received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office.
Ivanpah, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of all solar thermal energy currently operational in the US, is the largest solar project of its kind in the world. The project is the first to use BrightSource’s innovative solar power tower technology to produce electricity, which includes 173,500 heliostats that follow the sun’s trajectory, solar field integration software and a solar receiver steam generator. Since breaking ground in October 2010, the project has created thousands of jobs and, at the peak of construction, employed nearly 3,000 site workers who completed more than 8.35 million man-hours. A total of approximately $650 million in salaries for construction and operations is expected to be paid over the next 30 years.
The technology works by using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. The solar receiver generates steam, which then spins a traditional turbine and generator to make electricity. Power towers are very efficient because all those mirrors focus a tremendous amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature (up to 1000 degrees F).