A 250 MW concentrating solar power plant has come online in southern California. Abengoa, the Spanish engineering company, was responsible for the design and about three years were required to build it. An estimated 800 jobs were created during the construction phase. When fully operational, the plant will probably require about 70 permanent positions.
It uses parabolic trough technology to heat a transfer fluid which produces steam in generators that turn turbines to produce electricity. Two power islands each with a 125 MW capacity are located on a total of about 1,765 acres in San Bernadino county, nine miles from Hinkley.
A cooling tower uses ground water to reduce the temperature of steam exhaust. About 2.65 million cubic meters of water will be used each year. Also, approximately 185,000 square feet of new buildings were constructed.
Enough electricity will be produced to power about 54,000 homes and the plant has an expected operational life of thirty years. The power will be purchased by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Electricity will be transmitted to the Southern California Edison grid network.
It is expected the plant will offset a number of tons of CO2 every year equal to that produced by almost 90,000 cars. The Department of Energy issued a $1.2 billion loan guarantee in 2011 for the project
In the last 14 months, a total of four CSP plants have come online in Arizona and California. Their total capacity is 1.13 GW. There are some nuclear and coal power plants that have less capacity.
So, in a sense, one could say that the construction of clean energy plants with a very large combined capacity is an achievement. However, there is some kind of double standard it seems, where these new clean and renewable energy plants are criticized for things like cost and sometimes for not being as powerful, yet they don’t create air pollution or contribute to climate change.
They can also be built much more quickly and are much less potentially dangerous for the workers that run them. They are also less harmful to human populations – would you be happier to have a solar plant located near you or a nuclear reactor?
Image: California Energy Commission