BrightSource breaks ground on 370MW Ivanpah solar power project

Source: BrightSource Energy, Inc. 

BrightSource Energy, Inc., developer of utility scale solar power plants, celebrated the commencement of construction on its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). California Governor Schwarzenegger, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined with members of the BrightSource Energy team, project partners, and local, state and federal officials to commemorate the historic event. When constructed, Ivanpah will be the world’s largest solar power plant. 

“Today we are breaking ground on the largest solar project in the world, right here in California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “The construction of this renewable energy plant is great news for our state, and further proof that it is possible to both protect the environment and grow the economy. Projects like this one are helping us meet our long-term energy and environmental goals, while creating jobs and moving us toward a cleaner, more sustainable future – a future where California leads the nation and the world in a clean energy revolution.” 

"Ivanpah is an outstanding example of the progress we are making in building a renewable energy economy," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said at the groundbreaking. "With private sector initiative and government coordination and encouragement, we are helping to meet the President's goals for stimulating local economies, creating new jobs for American workers, reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy independence and strengthening our national security." 

“Today’s groundbreaking of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System represents a historical moment in our nation’s move to a clean energy economy,” said John Woolard, President and CEO of BrightSource Energy. “At Ivanpah, we’re demonstrating that the U.S. can lead in the clean energy race by building the largest solar plant in the world.” 

In addition to the Ivanpah groundbreaking event, BrightSource Energy today announced that power generation company NRG Energy will secure the largest ownership stake in the project by making an investment of up to $300 million. With this equity position, NRG will join BrightSource in the construction, ownership, and operation of Ivanpah. 

The Ivanpah Project: Clean Energy, Union Jobs, Environmentally-Responsible Design 

Once completed, the 392 megawatt gross (370 megawatts nominal) Ivanpah project will nearly double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the United States today. When constructed, the project will: 

• produce enough clean energy to power 140,000 homes 

• reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking more than 70,000 cars off the road 

• create more than 1,000 local union jobs at the peak of construction 

• provide $650 million in employee wages over its first 30-year life 

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The approximately 3,500 acre Ivanpah project is located in southeastern California’s San Bernardino County, approximately 50 miles northwest of Needles, California, and about five miles from the California-Nevada border. The project will be built by BrightSource’s engineering and construction partner, Bechtel Corporation, and will consist of three separate solar thermal power plants. 

“The innovative technology and size of Ivanpah make this a first-of-its kind project in many ways,” said Ian Copeland, president of Bechtel’s Renewable Power business. “The engineering and construction of Ivanpah will help shape the future development of solar power plants and demonstrate that they are now a utility scale source of clean, renewable energy.” 

The Ivanpah project received its federal permits by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on October 7, 2008, and its state permits from the California Energy Commission on September 22, 2010. In February 2010, BrightSource received a conditional commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy for $1.37 billion in loan guarantees to support the financing of the Ivanpah project. 

The power generated at Ivanpah will be sold under separate contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). PG&E will purchase approximately two-thirds of the power generated at Ivanpah and SCE will purchase approximately one-third. In all, BrightSource has contracted with PG&E and SCE to deliver 2,600 megawatts of electric power. 

Ivanpah: Creating Union Jobs 

BrightSource and Bechtel, the engineering and construction contractor for the Ivanpah project, estimate that the Ivanpah project will create 1,000 union jobs at the peak of construction. In December 2009, Bechtel signed a project labor agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (SBCTC) and the Building & Construction Trades Council of San Bernardino and Riverside counties to ensure that California’s local workforce benefits from the project. The project will also provide $300 million in local and state tax revenues, and produce $650 million in wages, over its first 30-year of operation. 

“The first of many expected utility-scale solar projects to break ground, Ivanpah is having a transformative effect on the High Desert Region’s workforce and economy,” said Bob Balgenorth, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. “President Obama’s stimulus and Senator Boxer’s tireless efforts helped make this project a reality. It is already starting to employ union labor and putting local people back to work. It will grow to be one of the region’s most impactful projects over the next three years.” 

Ivanpah: An Environmentally-Responsible Project 

BrightSource’s proprietary LPT technology enables the company to employ a low-impact environmental design. Instead of the extensive land grading and concrete pads used by other competing solar technologies, BrightSource mounts mirrors on individual poles that are placed directly into the ground, allowing the solar field to be built around the natural contours of the land and avoid areas of sensitive vegetation. This design also allows for vegetation to co-exist within the solar field. 

In order to conserve precious desert water, the Ivanpah project will employ an air-cooling system to convert the steam back into water in a closed-loop cycle. By using air-cooling, the project will use only 100 acre feet of water per year, approximately 95 percent less water than competing solar thermal technologies that use wet-cooling.

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