May 26, 2009 – Vol.14 No.10
CONCENTRATING SOLAR POWER SET TO GROW.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
It will be called Starwood Solar 1. With a number in its name, the developers must be considering Starwood Solar 2. When complete in 2013, the 290 MW concentrating solar thermal power generation plant to be built in the Arizona desert will be the single largest dispatchable solar power plant in the world. Dispatchable means it can tapped for electricity as needed, such as peak periods when power demand is high, late in the afternoon, weekdays in particular.
Starwood represents the latest in a growing trend in solar energy: capturing and amplifying the Sun’s heat to make electricity. The time-tested technology – there are commercial concentrating solar power (CSP) plants operating since the 1980’s – could add perhaps thousands of megawatts of clean power to the grid in the coming decades. In the same way that mega-wind farms have sprouted in the windy regions of the U.S. (and the world), mega-solar concentrating plants could spread throughout sunny regions.
In comparison with wind energy, bird strikes are not an issue with CSP. However, there may be concerns over glare when these solar facilities are seen at certain angles. And there are concerns over the amount of property these solar farms require, but in that regard, those of us who live in heavily populated areas forget that much of the nation is still vast and under populated. We have plenty of space to build huge solar arrays, CSP or photovoltaic. Starwood Solar I will take up 1900 acres.
CSP, like Starwood, also has features that wind farms can’t match: the ability to store energy, thermal energy, that is. Starwood will store heat in insulated tanks of molten salt. Heat stored in the salt can be used when the Sun goes down or on cloudy days to generate electricity. At the Starwood CSP plant a working fluid is heated to high temperatures, 734 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is used to make steam which turns turbogenerators to make electricity. When there’s no sun the heat stored in the molten salt will make the steam instead.
Starwood Energy Group Global and its affiliate Nautilus Solar Energy will develop the project but the actual construction will be put in the hands Lockheed Martin Corporation, best known as a defense contractor. Starwood Energy affiliate Starwood Solar I LLC will own the CSP plant.
Starwood will be a green job creator and economy builder. During construction between 2010 and 2013, $2.7 billion is expected to be spent for construction, engineering, operation and purchases of goods and services to outfit and maintain the project. The project will create 950 construction jobs, 50 engineering jobs and when complete 75 positions will be filled to operate the facility. Overall, direct and indirect jobs will total more than 7700. Indirect jobs will include those such as in the manufacturing of Starwood's 3500 100-meter long parabolic trough mirrors used to concentrate sunlight and jobs for those who build the large insulated tanks to hold that molten salt.
All of the power from Starwood – enough to serve 73,000 customers – will be sold to Arizona Public Service Company (APS) under a long term power purchase agreement (PPA). With Starwood Solar I, APS will be providing more solar electricity per customer than any other major utility in the United States.
Starwood Solar I will be located 75 miles west of Phoenix in the Harquahala Valley. The site was chosen for its abundant sunlight and proximity to existing transmission lines, electrical substations and access roads.
Starwood Energy Group
Nautilus Solar Energy
APS - Starwood Solar I
Lockheed Martin Corporation
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