This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 27, 2008

Arizona Utility to Buy Power from a 280-Megawatt Solar Power Plant

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) is planning to draw power from a 280-megawatt concentrating solar power (CSP) plant to be built near Gila Bend, Arizona, about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. Called the Solana Generating System, the new facility will be built by Abengoa Solar and is expected to begin producing power in 2011. It will be among the largest solar power plants in the world, producing enough power at full capacity to serve 70,000 households, and it will also have the ability to store energy, allowing power production to continue into the evening. The facility will use miles of parabolic trough-shaped mirrors to capture the sun's heat and focus it upon a length of "absorber" tubing. A fluid passed through the tubing collects the sun's heat, and the hot fluid is used to boil water to steam, which then spins a turbine to produce electricity.

Aerial photo of two adjoining large circles on a flat plain. In the background, the smaller circle is dotted with mirrors that are focusing sunlight onto a tower built on the right-hand perimeter of the circle. In the foreground, a larger circle is dotted with 18 arcing rows of mirrors on its left, and a tower stands on the right-hand perimeter of the circle, but a stretch of empty ground lies in between.

Abengoa Solar is currently operating the 11-megawatt PS10 solar power tower plant in the background of this photo and is building the 20-megawatt PS20 solar plant in the foreground. Enlarge this image.
Credit: Abengoa Solar

APS will buy all the power produced by the facility in its first 30 years, costing the utility a total of about $4 billion, while providing an estimated $1 billion in economic benefits to the state of Arizona. The plant's builder, Abengoa Solar, has built a demonstration solar trough plant in Spain and is building two 50-megawatt solar trough plants there. In addition, the company is currently operating the world's first commercial solar power tower plant, which uses a field of flat mirrors to focus sunlight onto a thermal collector at the top of a tall tower. The facility, called PS10, produces 11 megawatts of power, and Abengoa Solar is currently building PS20, which will produce 20 megawatts of power. See the press releases from APS and Abengoa Solar and Abengoa Solar's Power Tower Web page.

As the Abengoa Solar experience suggests, CSP is experiencing a resurgence in the United States and throughout the world. On February 23, dedication ceremonies were held for Nevada Solar One, a 64-megawatt solar trough plant near Boulder City that started producing power last year. The facility is the largest CSP plant to be built in the world since 1991. A number of new CSP plants are also planned for southern California, including the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a power tower facility that will reach 400 megawatts in three phases of construction. The California Energy Commission (CEC) is currently reviewing the Ivanpah application. With more CSP plants on the way, Ausra, Inc. announced in December 2007 that it will build a manufacturing facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, for CSP components such as mirrors, absorber tubes, and towers, and in January, Schott Solar announced plans to build a $100 million manufacturing plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to produce both absorber tubes and solar photovoltaic modules. The Ausra facility will begin production in April, while the Schott Solar facility should be completed next year. See the Nevada Solar One press release, the CEC Web page on the Ivanpah facility, and the press releases from Ausra and Schott.