The Largest So­lar Plant in the World

Ivan­pah So­lar Elec­tric Gen­er­at­ing Sys­tem

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - BY ALVIN SOON

Lo­cated in Cal­i­for­nia’s Mo­jave Desert, Ivan­pah So­lar Elec­tric Gen­er­at­ing Sys­tem is the largest so­lar plant un­der con­struc­tion in the world. Built on ap­prox­i­mately 3,500 acres of desert land, Ivan­pah So­lar – which counts Google as one of its own­ers – will pro­vide so­lar elec­tric­ity to more than 140,000 homes when it’s com­pleted.

Ivan­pah So­lar gen­er­ates elec­tric­ity the same way that most of the world’s elec­tric­ity is made; by cre­at­ing high-tem­per­a­ture steam to turn a tur­bine. In­stead of burn­ing fos­sil fu­els to cre­ate the steam how­ever, over 300,000 soft­ware-con­trolled mir­rors track the sun and re­flect sun­light to boil­ers which sit atop three 140-me­ter tall tow­ers. When the fo­cused sun­light hits the boil­ers’ tubes, it heats wa­ter in­side to cre­ate high-tem­per­a­ture steam, which is piped from the boiler to a tur­bine to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity.

Com­pared with con­ven­tional nat­u­ral gas-fired power plants, Ivan­pah So­lar will avoid spew­ing mil­lions of met­ric tons of carbon diox­ide into the planet’s at­mos­phere. But de­spite its ben­e­fits, Ivan­pah So­lar is not with­out con­tro­versy. The plant sits in the habi­tat of the threat­ened desert tor­toise; al­most 200 have had to be re­lo­cated. In 2012, the United States’ Na­tional Parks Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion is­sued a neg­a­tive re­port of the project, with its Cal­i­for­nia Desert Se­nior Pro­gram Man­ager call­ing it “a mis­take.” No­body said change was go­ing to be easy.

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