Friday, March 2, 2012

Silver State Home to New Tower of Solar Power

Nevada has a new tower of solar power.

California-based solar developer SolarReserve announced Thursday that it has completed the 540-foot tower at the center of its Crescent Dunes solar-power plant on federal land near Tonopah.

The tower is key to the plant's operation: Its apex contains the receiver that will field sun rays directed by hundreds of small mirrors. The receiver's heat exchanger will then transfer that sun power into molten salt, which will then be stored in tanks to provide power through the night.

"Completion of the solar power tower is a significant milestone not only for SolarReserve and our plant, but also for the solar energy industry as a whole," said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve's CEO. "This project is on track to bring American innovation to fruition and is already creating jobs."

The plant has more than 100 construction workers on site, though that number will surge to more than 600 during peak building.

When it's complete sometime in late 2013, the 110-megawatt plant will be the nation's first utility-scale solar-power plant with energy storage, and the largest power plant of its kind in the world.

Local power utility NV Energy signed a 25-year power-purchase agreement to buy electricity from Crescent Dunes for 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

The plant will provide enough juice to power about 75,000 homes. NV Energy inked the deal to help meet the state's renewable-portfolio standard, which requires the utility to obtain 25 percent of its electricity from green sources by 2025.

"NV Energy is committed to supporting renewable energy development in Nevada and is pleased to be working with SolarReserve on the Crescent Dunes energy plant," said Michael Yackira, the utility's president and CEO. "We congratulate SolarReserve on this milestone and look forward to bringing our customers clean, reliable electricity from one of Nevada's greatest resources -- the sun."

Equity investors have put $260 million into Crescent Dunes, and the project has obtained $737 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy.


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