Saturday, July 28, 2007

Israel-based Solel to build world largest solar farm

Spurred by state mandates for utilities to product 20% of generated power from renewable sources, California-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) entered into a landmark renewable energy agreement with Solel-MSP-1 (subsidiary of Israel-based Solel Thermal Systems) to purchase renewable energy from the Mojave Solar Park, to be constructed in California’s Mojave Desert. The project will deliver 553 megawatts of solar power, the equivalent of powering 400,000 homes, to PG&E’s customers in northern and central California. The Mojave Solar Park project is now the world’s largest single solar commitment.

The plant utilizes Solel’s patented and commercially-proven solar thermal parabolic trough technology to concentrate solar energy onto solar thermal receivers that contain a fluid that is heated and circulated used to generate steam that powers a turbine to produce electricity. When fully operational in 2011, the Mojave Solar Park plant will cover up to 6,000 acres, or nine square miles in the Mojave Desert. Solel is working closely with URS Corporation in the development of the Mojave Solar Park, which when commercial will rely on 1.2 million mirrors and 317 miles of vacuum tubing to capture the desert sun’s heat.

Perhaps the most environmentally satisfying aspect of the project is that the electricity generated by Mojave Solar Park will use some of the transmission infrastructure originally built for the now dormant coal-fired Mojave Generation Station to deliver the power to PG&E’s customers.

This Red Herring article considers the PG&E-Solel agreement as a signal of the of a CSP (concentrate solar power) boom, as PG&E seeks to make other utility-scale solar farm deals with the likes of BrightSource Energy, Green Volts and Cleantech America (here's an interesting expose on Cleantech America and the ambitions of this 2-year-old startup to capitalize on the solar farm boom).

Elsewhere, PG&E is also making aggressive moves in wind and wave energy, reports the Green Wombat.

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