You may have heard the stories about fried birds or remember from a while back about the desert tortoises and you may even be sufficiently mathematically literate to wonder about effectiveness but all of that is set aside as Katie Fehrenbacher says The Hoover Dam of solar is now live in the desert of California. Here’s why it’s so important.
“Less than a hundred miles from the rim of the Hoover Dam, just outside of Las Vegas at the edge of dusty San Bernardino County, sits a symbol of how the sun will some day provide copious amounts of electricity for entire cities. This is Ivanpah, the world’s largest operating solar farm, which uses 347,000 mirrors (173,500 heliostats) and three huge 450-foot towers to harness the sun’s heat to generate electricity.” … “enough solar power into the grid to power 140,000 (average American) homes”
… “the 5-mile by one-mile long colossal clean power project, Ivanpah is the Hoover Dam for this generation”
“Ivanpah took years longer to get built than expected. It was one of the first projects to be developed on controversial Bureau of Land Management land, and the location ended up having more desert tortoises than originally thought.”
“Average panels convert about 10 percent to 12 percent of the light, while more high efficiency panels like those from SunPower convert about 20 percent.” … “Ivanpah uses dry cooling instead of water cooling to manage its heat. That’s important because as we’ve seen with the California drought, the future will be increasingly water-constrained.”
“Connectivity and computing is playing a role in Ivanpah as well. Each heliostat is connected by not only a power cable but also a data cable that controls each one ensuring they track the sun, or change position according to the facilities’ needs. When there are high winds the mirrors go into a safety flat position. When it rains they also go into that position to get a free mother nature washing. Data commands all aspects of the Ivanpah facility.”
The optimists gloss over many things. If you don’t gloss over the column, you can see them. Time may also reveal these things.