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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mega Solar: the World’s 13 Biggest Solar Thermal Energy Projects

Parabolic Solar MirrorSolar thermal energy plants focus the glare of the Sun’s rays on a central location to create heat, which is then turned into electricity. Various methods exist to concentrate the solar radiation, including parabolic troughs, power towers with mirrors that track the Sun (heliostats), parabolic dishes, and Fresnel reflectors. See a history of solar thermal energy.

For comparison with solar photovoltaics, see the world’s 13 biggest photovoltaic solar energy projects.


solar_two_.jpgLocation: Mojave Desert, USA.

Megawatts: 500 MW, with plans to expand to 900 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: BrightSource Energy and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Status: Will begin operating as early as 2011.

More: To date, this field of power towers is the largest planned Concentrated Solar project in the world. Meanwhile, through contracts with a number of other solar companies, PG&E will soon be operating over 2,000 MW of solar energy. California state law requires each investor-owned utility to supply at least 20% of their grid with renewable energy. Source: PG&E [PDF]. Photo: Pictured here is Solar Two, also in the Mojave Desert, which has a similar design to the upcoming plant; WikiMedia.

Stirling EnergyLocation: Mojave Desert, USA.

Megawatts: 500 MW, with possible expansion to 850 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Stirling Energy Systems and San Diego Gas & Electric.

Status: Will begin operating in 2011.

More: 20,000 parabolic dishes will be spread over 4,500 acres of desert. The dishes are each 40 feet tall and capable of producing 2.5 kilawatts. Source: Foreign Policy. Photo: Stirling Energy Systems.

Solar TwoLocation: Upington, South Africa.

Megawatts: 100 MW pilot to be possibly expanded to 600 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Eskom.

Status: Eskom is currently considering whether to continue with plans for the project.

More: This project has been on the drawing board now for several years. If it gets the green light and is completed, it will drop South Africa from the 15th biggest CO2 emitter to the 25th.

The project relies on the power tower method of production. In this solar thermal variation, a circle of moving mirrors, or heliostats, track the Sun as it moves across the sky. The mirrors focus light on a central tower. Heat from this concentrated light can reach up to 600˚C. These rays heat molten salt, which is used to generate steam and power a turbine. Source: Engineering News; Eskom via Solar4Africa. Photo: Solar Two power tower, Wikimedia.

solar_array.jpgLocation: Mojave Desert, USA.

Megawatts: 553 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Solel and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Status: Will begin operating in 2011.

More: Solel, an Israeli company, will use 1.2 million mirrors and 317 miles of vacuum tubing for the project. When complete, the solar field will cover 6,000 acres and bring power to 400,000 homes. Source: Ynet news; Solel [PDF]. Photo: WikiMedia.

ivanpah_simulation.jpgLocation: California, USA.

Megawatts: 400 MW.

Solar Company: Solar Partners

Status: Scheduled to begin operating in 2012.

More: The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will consist of three power towers, connected at a central point. The heliostats being considered are just over 7 feet tall and 10.5 feet wide. Construction will take place in three phases, beginning with two 100 MW towers and finishing with one 200 MW tower. Plants will use a gas boiler only during morning times while the towers are warming to start the day’s operating more quickly. Source, photo: The California Energy Commission.

SEGSLocation: Mojave Desert, USA.

Megawatts: 310 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Florida Power & Light and Southern California Edison.

Status: Operating.

More: Known as the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) this is a group of nine concentrated solar plants. It’s currently the largest single source of solar energy in the world. By comparison, the largest operating photovoltaic solar plant to date, which is in Spain, produces 20 MW. The site has 400,000 mirrors laid over an area of 1,000 acres. The mirrors were built between 1984 and 1991. Sources: Florida Power & Light, The Energy Blog. Photo: WikiMedia.

PS10, SpainLocation: Seville, Spain.

Megawatts: 11 MW currently, planned increase to 300 MW.

Solar Company and Electric Utility: Mirrors by Abengoa and power tower by ALTAC.

Status: Operating. Scheduled 300 MW production by 2013.

More: With the completion of other solar energy plants in the same area, the total energy production will be about 300 MW. The current power tower stands 115 meters above the surrounding sunflower fields. 624 heliostat mirrors focus sunlight on the tower. Source: Environment News Service; BBC. Photo: WikiMedia.

Fresnel reflectorsLocation: Florida, USA

Megawatts: 300 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Florida Power & Light.

Status: Scheduled to begin operating in 2011.

More: This project, which will utilize Fresnel reflectors, will help Florida to meet its goal of 20% wind and solar energy. Currently, the state of Florida receives half of its power from natural gas and another 20% from nuclear. Florida Power and Light has already identified the location of 1,100 MW of new solar plants. Sources: St. Petersburg Times; Energy Business Review. Photo: WikiMedia.

Solano troughsLocation: Arizona, USA.

Megawatts: 280 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Abengoa Solar and Arizona Public Service Co.

Status: Scheduled to begin operating in 2011.

More: The plant, being built by Spanish solar company Abengoa, will cover 1,800 acres and offer 1,500 jobs. The solar field will power an estimated 70,000 homes and keep about 400,000 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Source, photo: Abengoa.

Zenith SolarLocation: Negev Desert, Israel.

Megawatts: 250 MW.

Status: Government is seeking bids from thermal solar companies.

More: Israel’s solar goal is 5% by 2016. Already, more than 1 million homes in a country of 7.1 million have rooftop solar water heaters. Source: Economic Times. Photo: Shown here is a concentrated solar design from Israeli company Zenith Solar; Business Week.

Beacon Solar Energy ProjectLocation: Mojave Desert, USA.

Megawatts: 250 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Florida Power & Light.

Status: Scheduled to begin operating in 2011.

More: The Beacon Solar Energy project will use 500,000 parabolic troughs over an area of 2,012 acres. Once in operation, the plant will employ roughly 1,000 workers. Sources: Green Wombat; Florida Power & Light. Photo: Green Wombat.

Ausra Fresnel reflectorsLocation: California, USA.

Megawatts: 177 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Ausra and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Status: Scheduled to begin operating in 2010.

More: Using Fresnel reflectors, Ausra will supply roughly 60,000 homes with renewable solar power. In contrast with parabolic troughs, Fresnel reflectors are series of flat mirrors that reflect light onto a thermal conducting rod. Ausra’s client, Pacific Gas & Electric currently fulfills 12% of its energy needs with renewable energy. Source: News.com. Photo: Ausra.

Solar Systems AustraliaLocation: Mildura, Australia.

Megawatts: 154 MW.

Solar Company & Electric Utility: Solar Systems and TRUenergy.

Status: Plant will begin operating in 2010 and reach full capacity by 2013.

More: When fully completed, the solar field will power about 45,000 homes in Australia. By 2030, Mildura may be producing as much as 5 Gigawatts of solar energy. Source: EcoWorldly via Foreign Policy. Photo: Solar Systems.

More resources on solar: Cleantechnica

Top Photo: Wikipedia.

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