Nevada, United States of America

Summary

Nevada Solar One is the world's third largest solar thermal power plant, generating 130 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity to 14,000 homes per year and averting 100,000 tCO2e annually. The new plant showcases the latest in solar technology and confirms the potential of solar thermal as a reliable and affordable source of clean energy. State policies, support from the Governor, and advances in technology have been essential in making this source of ‘new power’ a reality.

What is it?

Nevada Solar One is a commercial-scale solar energy power plant, generating 64MW of clean energy. The facility is made up of 280 acres of mirrored troughs that concentrate the desert sunlight, converting it into thermal energy, then used to create steam for electrical power generation. Electricity generated at the plant is sold to the grid. The facility is the world’s first solar thermal plant to be built in 15 years using the latest solar heat technology.

It is wholly owned by Spain's renewable energy giant, Acciona - which acquired a 55% share in the original developer, Solargenix. Nevada Solar One was built by Acciona’s solar subsidiary Acciona Solar Power.

Costs

  • Project costs USD 266 million.
  • Unsubsidised solar thermal power is currently slightly more expensive than wind power, but less than photovoltaic (PV) power - at about $USD 0.09 to 0.13 cents per kWh.
  • Industry expectations are that this will drop to 0.9cents per kWh as solar thermal develops several thousand MWs.

Application

The global outlook for solar thermal energy has changed significantly as a result of:

  • Increases in EU funding for renewable energies in the late 90’s, which reignited R&D largely in Spain and Germany, with US involvement.
  • In Spain, feed-in tariffs have made it affordable and achievable to plan and build three new plants.
  • Inspired by progress in Spain, R&D into CSP began again in other parts of the world, most notably America (for Parabolic Troughs and Dish systems) and Australia (for CLFR).
  • Four states in the US southwest —California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico— are also investing time and money into solar thermal

New power plants planned, include:

Parabolic Trough

  • Three 50MW Parabolic Trough plants, known as “Andasol I, II and III” are planned to open in the summer of 2008 near Granada in Spain.
  • Two Acciona 50 MW Parabolic Trough plants, known as “La Risca and Palma Del Rio” are planned to start construction respectively by the end of 2007 and March 2008.
  • Many Integrated Solar/Combined Cycle (ISCC) Parabolic Trough plants are in the planning or building stage in many parts of the world, including Algeria, Mexico, Iran, India and Morocco
  • On 25th July 2007 a contract was signed between PG&E and Solel to build 553MW of CSP in California by 2011

Power Tower

  • The first molten salt Power Tower in the world is currently being built in Spain at the moment – a 17MW plant known as “Solar Tres”, planned to be finished over the next 2 years.
  • A 100MW molten salt Power Tower is also planned for South Africa, construction not begun.

Dish Systems

  • The “EuroDish” project is currently testing costs and performance at Platforma Solar de Almeria
  • 40 individual 25kW Dish systems are currently being tested in California, with the aim of constructing a 500MW Dish Stirling plant in the future

CLFR

  • A Fresnel demonstration plant was established in July 2007 at Platforma Solar de Almeria
  • A 45MW facility is being used at the Liddell power station (did it start June 2007?), to supply saturated steam for feed-water heating purposes
  • A Fresnel plant is also planned for Portugal by Ausra