Google has just sealed a deal to invest $168 million in a Mojave Desert solar energy plant. The investment is going to BrightSource Energy, a company that develops and operates large-scale solar power plants, specifically to fund its Ivanpah project.
Ivanpah is a solar electric generating system that uses solar thermal technology and “an environmentally responsible design,” to deliver reliable, clean and low-cost power to Californians, according to the project’s website.
The plant will generate energy with a technology called power towers. Mirrors, called heliostats, are arranged in an array and aim the sun’s rays at a receiver atop a tower. The receiver generates steam; the steam causes a turbine to rotate; the rotation causes a generator to generate electricity. Because such large quantities of solar energy are being directed to such a small area, the power towers are very efficient.
The power tower at Ivanpah will be around 450 feet tall. The plant will use 173,000 heliostats, and each heliostat will have two mirrors, making Ivanpah the largest project of its kind. Construction at Ivanpah should be completed in 2013.