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

May 20, 2009

World's Biggest Solar Power Tower now Producing Power in Spain

Abengoa Solar began commercial operation of a 20-megawatt solar power tower plant near Seville, Spain, in late April. Called the PS20, the plant uses a field of 1,255 flat mirrors, or heliostats, to concentrate sunlight on a receiver mounted on a central tower. Water pumped up the tower and through the receiver boils into steam, which is then directed through a turbine to produce electricity. The new facility is located adjacent to one with half its capacity, called PS10, which was the world's first commercial solar power tower plant. According to Abengoa Solar, the new facility is exceeding its predicted power output. See the Abengoa Solar press release.

Several companies are planning to build solar power tower plants in the United States, including BrightSource Energy, Inc., which is planning to build a 110-MW facility near Ivanpah, California. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has signed a contract to buy all the power from that facility when it is built, and last year, the utility signed contracts with BrightSource for up to 900 megawatts of solar power. Last week, the utility increased its commitment to BrightSource, replacing the previous power purchase agreements with new agreements for a total of 1,310 megawatts of solar thermal power. BrightSource intends to start operating its Ivanpah facility in 2012 and then build six more projects as quickly as possible. The Ivanpah project is currently under review by the California Energy Commission (CEC). See the PG&E press release, the BrightSource technology description, and the CEC Web page for the Ivanpah project.