Solar thermal energy seeks to consolidate its progress

From Sustentator and this special in the nation space, always expressed the importance of using the wind and Sun to generate energy. It is highly usable sources whose use can be performed on multiple conditions and sustainable benefits for the economy, society and, above all, the environment. More and more projects undertaken in the installation of solar panels or collectors are increasingly big business supporting such initiatives (from Google technology with its commitment to carbon, renewable energy projects) and each More and more countries join the movement to rethink the energy sector.

In February this year BrightSource Energy announced that the Ivanpah solar thermal plant to be operational beginning. Why the importance of this announcement? Besides being a new project towards renewable energy, the highlight of this story is that Ivanpah is the largest when solar thermal energy. Therefore, it seemed important to dedicate this article to know its features and understand why, for those who work daily in renewable energy, is a story that deserves to be shared to discuss it together.


The Solar Power generating system Ivanpah is located in the Mojave Desert in California, United States, 60 kilometers to the south of Las Vegas. Between the uniform landscapes of desert, now striking a plant formed by thousands of mirrors that extend across 1,300 acres of federal land. The project was supported by a working group of NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy cost estimate more than 2,000 million, of which the U.S. government gave 1,600 million on loan.

The location was not random. The Mojave Desert receives sunlight for between 330-350 days per year and the dry air prevails. With Ivanpah California seeks to achieve its purpose of obtaining 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The Director of Energy and Sustainability at Google, Rick Needham, explained the reasons why the technology company joined this project. “Google invests in projects that have the potential to transform the energy sector and generate more clean energy is Ivanpah a radiant example of this type of project”.


The new “mega-plant” in operation, produces a total power of 392MW through more than 300,000 units of multiple mirrors. What these numbers are equivalent? Simply this generated energy capacity, they may supply the plant next to 140,000 households. It also represents 30% of all solar energy in the United States. To illustrate these figures, the amount of energy generated by the plant equivalent of taking over 70,000 cars off the road and their tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Solar thermal energy

The plant operates in a simple way: there are three “solar farms” made up of mirrors arranged in concentric circles that capture sunlight and redirect towards three giant towers 150 meters located at each of its centers. At the top of the towers, there is a steam boiler, which heat at temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit allows operation of the turbine of the solar plant. So electricity is generated for injection into the local network. To learn more about the operation of these towers, I invite you to read my note on this project we anticipated.

From the environmental point of view, during construction optimization of land use was prioritized. After commissioning, the plant prevents generate millions of tons of carbon dioxide, even have a plan to reduce pollutants such as nitrogen oxide. It also uses a special system that allows use 95% less water than normally used in this type of industry.


While some professionals and anticipated the precedent that has been labeled with the operation of the Ivanpah plant, the debate over its impact was immediate. Major controversies revolve around how the miles of mirrors affect the migration of birds and the daily lives of other wildlife present in the vicinity. In November last year, the magazine Desert Sun reported that 30 birds had died as a result of the intensity caused by the thousands of mirrors beams.

Every project has a human impact on the surrounding environment, the key is always to work with different stakeholders to minimize any possible impact and affect that as small as possible to nature and all life forms. Even the Ivanpah project was delayed about three years to work in conservation, protected turtles relocated from the area to assess the impact that the operations were in the endemic plants of the desert. According to the California Energy Commission, “even though the solar plant would impose significant impacts on the environment, the benefits of the project will be higher”.

The implementation of Ivanpah is an example of how to generate energy cleanly. Perhaps even some details remain to be resolved, not to affect the lives of animal species, but it can not be doubted that sets a precedent for other cities around the world to show that the progress of energy not found in digging for oil but install panels or windmills to harness the sun and wind.


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