$5bn Nevada solar scheme set to be biggest in world

A California company has announced plans to build the world’s largest solar power station on a 25 square mile plot in the neighbouring state of Nevada. The plant will use more than 100,000 mirrors to generate up to 2GW of electricity.

The project, by SolarReserve, would cost around $5bn, and would produce four times as much energy as the $2.2bn Ivanpah facility, the present holder of the title, which generates about 390MW.

Kevin Smith, SolarReserve’s chief executive, said on Tuesday, 11 October, that his company would create a 10-tower concentrated solar array, to be called Sandstone Energy X, near the town of Tonopah in western Nevada, about 225 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The site is about 30 miles from the Californian border, and Smith said the aim of the project was to power about a million houses in California.

The company has already built about 500MW of solar power facilities, one of which is a single-tower project on 1,600 acres of federal land outside Tonopah. This is called the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, and it can produce up to 110MW of electricity by focusing sunlight onto a 640ft tower filled with molten salt. The tower is raised to a temperature of about 1,000°C, and this thermal energy can power steam turbines both day and night.

Cresent dunes focuses light onto a single tower. Sandstone will have 10 of them (SolarReserve)

Southwest America hosts the world’s five largest solar power stations. As well as Ivanpah condensed solar facility in Death Valley, developed by BrightSource and Bechtel in February 2014, there are two in the Mojave Desert, the Solana Generating Station in Arizona and the Genesis Project in Blythe, California.

The site for this latest facility has not been assigned yet, but a Smith said construction could begin by 2020 on a 16,000 acre sandstone site on federal land in Nye County.

Smith said SolarReserve would explore federal loan programmes and private financing to pay for the project.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the $1bn Crescent Dunes plant attracted $737m in federal grant and took more than four years to construct, significantly longer than predicted. Smith said he expected cost and construction time to decrease as SolarReserve completes more projects. It presently has 8GW in its development pipeline.

Image: The single tower Crescent Dunes concentrated solar plant (SolarReserve)

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