World’s Largest Solar Towers Take to the Sun

worlds largest solar towers

Photo by Afloresm and Abengoa

California will soon be home to the world’s two largest solar towers through an ambitious project known as The Palen Solar Electrical Generating System.

The announcement was made shortly after the US Department of Interior announced the country was to add 1.1 gigawatts to its clean energy capacity. California has also committed to have a third of their power must be derived from renewable sources by the year 2030.

The new $2.6 billion solar project will be a joint development between Abengoa, a technology solutions provider for sustainable development, and BrightSource Energy, a solar thermal technology company.

Albengoa will build the plants as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor and will lead the operation and maintenance of the plants once online while BrightSource will provide the solar field technology and plant design.

The two towers will be constructed on on Federal land in a Department of Interior Solar Energy Zone, Riverside County California. Together the towers will produce 500 megawatts of solar energy. According to BrightSource, they will create enough electricity to power 200,000 households and prevent 17 million tons of carbon emissions over the life of the plant.

worlds largest solar towers

Photo by Afloresm and Abengoa

Currently topping the concentrating solar power plant list in terms of size is a 100 megawatt concentrated solar power plant in Abu Dhabi.

Each Palen Solar tower will stand 750 feet tall, allowing for a high concentration of heliostats.

“This design significantly reduces the amount of land required to produce energy – up to 33 percent less than a typical photovoltaic (PV) farm,” said BrightSource.

The design will feature thousands of motor-driven mirrors that track the sun as soon as it moves across the sky, focusing sunlight to reach a water boiler at the top of each tower.

The mirror movement captures as much energy as possible to maximise the output of concentrated sunlight to the boiler. The boiler then heats the water to 550 degrees Celsius and moves the steam from the boiler through a standard turbine to create electricity. Each mirror generates enough electricity to generate one home.

To protect surrounding vegetation,  individual poles placed directly into the ground without concrete foundations will allow the solar field to be built around the natural contours of the land, retaining native vegetation under the mirrors.

worlds largest solar towers

Photo by BrightSource Energy

To conserve water, an air cooling system then returns the steam back to the boiler to store it extending the solar energy to meet electricity demands after the sun sets.

This initiative is incredibly sustainable, as the sun provides 5,000 times the amount of energy required by the entire planet.

BrightSource has also confirmed that the new design will reduce the plant’s footprint by 13 per cent, from 4,366 acres to approximately 3,800 acres, and use 50 per cent less water by deploying a dry-cooling technology.

The solar plant will also contribute to the economy by creating 2,000 jobs with construction to begin later this year and an estimated completion date of 2016.

By Angela Fedele
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