It is hard to miss as you drive Interstate 15 just south of Primm, NV. A large construction project just off the freeway with large towers jetting up from the desert floor. Lots and lots of construction trucks entering and exiting the freeway. Early morning and late afternoon traffic is bumper to bumper. Just what the heck is going on you think as you drive by?
You are seeing the largest solar field in the world being built, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System ( http://ivanpahsolar.com/ ). Construction is expected to be completed in 2013. The facility will consist of fields of heliostat mirrors focusing sunlight on receivers located on centralized solar power towers. The receivers will generate steam to drive specially adapted steam turbines. Thousands of software-controlled mirrors harness the sun’s energy and reflect it to boilers atop power towers. When the concentrated sunlight strikes the boiler’s pipes, it heats the water to create steam. This high-temperature steam is then piped from the boiler to a standard turbine where electricity is generated. Transmission lines then carry the power to homes and businesses.
The first phase of the project covers over 3,600 acres and will produce 392 megawatts of power. This will be enough power for an estimated 140,000 homes. The project has had some environmental issues also. The solar system may not be as destructive as photovoltaic solar facilities on desert habitat, which require completely flat ground and involve bulldozing of the entire area. However, the mowing of native vegetation, and anticipated erosion of desert soils on the project site make the habitat unsuitable for most plant and wildlife, according to the Final Staff Assessment of the project conducted by the California Energy Commission. Owners are also required to install fencing that will keep wildlife out of the area. As of September 2011, the project has displaced at least 127 threatened desert tortoises, which are expected to be moved to other parts of the Mojave Desert. However, environmentalists have raised concerns that relocated tortoises are more likely to die due to the stresses of adapting to a new area and increased vulnerability to natural predators. In order to conserve scarce desert water the project uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water. Compared to conventional wet-cooling, this results in a 90 percent reduction in water usage, at some loss in power and turbine efficiency. The water is then returned to the boiler in a closed process.
Now when you drive by you can answer your car mates when they ask what those big towers are for! Look for other desert updates regularly here at www.CA2NVRE.com and if you need help with desert real estate, call or email me. From Palm Springs to Las Vegas, from the Salton Sea to Lake Mead, I can help with your real estate needs and questions.Tweet