I never write about renewable energy projects who will bring only a few megawatts to the grids. I prefer to focus on huge plants that will bring at least several hundreds megawatts which are more interesting in a global scope.
This is the case of two projects I heard about this week. One will bring 1.3 GW to California with solar thermal, while the second will bring another GW to London thanks to offshore wind turbines.
As we will see in today’s post, this is very nice but many other projects like these will be needed if we want to stop relying on dirty coal for our electricity.
Here is what TreeHugger wrote on the Californian project:
In what both parties are characterizing as the biggest solar deal in the world, utility PG&E and solar thermal power developer BrightSource have announced that they have signed an agreement to develop seven solar thermal power plants in California totaling 1.31 GW, the first of which, in Ivanpah, is expected to come online in 2012:
All together these seven plants are expected to generate 3,666 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, equal to the the annual power consumption of about 530,000 average homes.
BrightSource Now Has Over 2.6 GW of Solar Thermal in Development
If you remember, back in February a strikingly similar deal for some 1,300 MW of solar thermal power was touted by BrightSource, this time with Southern California Edison. (note: I wrote about it there)
Though they are two separated contracts—yes BrightSource now has some 2,610 MW of solar thermal power in development—the capacity of the initial plant in Ivanpah will be shared between the utilities: 310 MW going to PG&E and 110 MW for SCE. (Earth2Tech)
Power-Tower Approach to Be Used
There are a number of different ways to generate electricity using solar thermal technology. BrightSource is using the power-tower approach (similar to the one which recently commissioned in Spain). This method uses a field of heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a central tower, where a liquid-filled receiver creates steam, which in turn turns a turbine to generate electricity.
2.6 GW seems huge but one needs to remember this equals only two nuclear reactors of EPR type. As you know, the United States have more than 100 reactors. So these solar plants won’t account for a large part of the electricity consumed in the US.
Meanwhile, London offshore wind project is also interesting is due to be the largest of its kind in the world. As TreeHugger (again) noted:
It’s been a rough ride since the project was first announced a couple years ago, and just last month the project’s backers asked for a bailout. Well, despite that recent uncertainty regarding the project’s funding, E.ON UK has said that the project will again be going forward:
Quoted by Reuters, chief executive of E.ON Climate and Renewables Frank Mastiaux said that the project’s backers (which includes Dong Energy and Masdar) would be investing €2.2 billion ($2.98 billion) in the next phase of the project.
As far as when the 1 GW wind farm in the Thames Estuary might actually produce some electricity, the first 630 MW phase of the project is expected to be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
In their press release regarding the funding announcement, E.ON indicated that newly increased UK government support for wind power has made the project, again, financially viable.