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World’s largest solar thermal power plant now live

The world’s largest solar thermal power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, is live and delivering power to Californians.

Covering around 3,500 acres of federal land near the California-Nevada border, the system has a field of thousands of mirror-like heliostats that direct sunlight to receivers on three 450-foot high towers. The heat then boils water to power a conventional steam turbine.

The system will produce 392 MW of electricity, enough power 140,000 California homes and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission. The power from Ivanpah will be sold to utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison Company.

credited_Ivanpah solar power tower“The Ivanpah project is a shining example of how America is becoming a world leader in solar energy,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the opening of the plant, which accounts for about one third of all solar thermal power generated in the U.S.

“As the President made clear in the State of the Union, we must continue to move toward a cleaner energy economy, and this project shows that building a clean energy economy creates jobs, curbs greenhouse gas emissions, and fosters American innovation,” he continued.

While the project $2.2 billion project is owned by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy, it’s also a recipient of a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department.

“This project was made possible by the successful public-private partnership between the Department of Energy and the project sponsors,” said Peter Davidson, Executive Director of the Loan Programs Office. “Through partnerships like this, we can continue to build an innovative clean energy economy in the U.S.”

Ivanpah was the first commercial scale solar power tower project in the U.S., and one of five CSP projects receiving a loan guarantee from the Energy Department.

The Energy Department’s Loan Program is also supporting innovative technologies like the country’s first solar thermal storage project and the first power tower with solar thermal storage.

“Congratulations to the Ivanpah team for achieving commercial operation,” said Rick Needham, Google’s director of energy and sustainability.

“At Google we invest in innovative renewable energy projects that have the potential to transform the energy landscape and help provide more clean power to businesses and homes around the world. Ivanpah is a shining example of such a project and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”