World’s Largest Solar Power Plant May Be Coming to Nevada
The California-based company, SolarReserve, has plans to roll out the world’s largest solar power plant in Nevada that would generate electricity 24/7. This solar power farm dubbed Sandstone, would power 1 million U.S. homes, the equivalent of a nuclear power plant, which is about 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts of energy.
This plan by SolarReserve doesn’t seem so far-fetched either. The company already has a solar power plant in Nevada that produces 110 megawatts of energy, and runs 24/7 with the help of molten salt. Crescent Dunes, located in Tonopah, Nevada, generates enough electricity to power 75,000 homes a year. With over 10,000 mirrors called heliostats, the sun shines down and reflects off of these mirrors onto a tower filled with molten salt. The molten salt is then heated as high as 1,049 degrees Fahrenheit, and boils water to produce steam. This steam then turns turbines to produce electricity, much like a nuclear power plant, without the emissions!
This concentrating solar power plant is able to produce electricity even when the sun goes down because there is a thermal tank that stores the heated molten salt. So, even at night time, this concentrated solar power plant can produce electricity without the need of any other means of backup fuel like oil or natural gas.
SolarReserve’s Sandstone Project
So, now that we know a little about how SolarReserve’s first solar power plant works, we can see how it is possible for the company to build the world’s largest solar power farm. The Sandstone project will require 10 towers and 100,000 mirrors, as opposed to the Crescent Dune’s 1 tower and 10,000 mirrors. The Sandstone solar power plant is also said to cost $5 billion when up and running, and take years to finish.
Sandstone will be the same concept as Crescent Dune, generating and storing energy with the heating of molten salt from the sun’s rays. Construction could start within the next two to three years upon financial backing and approval. The CEO of SolarReserve, Kevin Smith, suggests that when fully operational, Sandstone could yield about 3,000 jobs. Smith also has said that the solar power plant will export the majority of its power to the California market.
Will Sandstone Solar Power Plant Actually Happen?
Of course, $5 billion is a lot of money to start this endeavor, especially when photovoltaic solar projects are cheaper, and generate energy at lower costs; however, the idea of producing clean energy throughout an entire 24/7 period is pretty sweet. Generating electricity without any need of backup fuel source eliminates a lot of emissions in the atmosphere, so it’s kind of a no-brainer. We can’t say for sure if this project will take off like Crescent Dune because of financial and environmental controversy surrounding concentrated solar power plants. But it is clear that this is a cleaner, renewable energy-generating process that makes us smile.