U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in late December approved—for the ninth time since October 2010—a solar power project to be built on federal lands. Solar Reserve’s Crescent Dunes is a 110-MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant planned for siting on about 2,250 acres of public lands in Nevada. It will use advanced “power tower” technology developed in the U.S. by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.

According to Solar Reserve, the facility also has the “ability to capture and store enough thermal energy each morning to provide electricity at full power all afternoon and for eight hours after sunset.” The plant will use mirror fields to focus solar energy on a tower receiver near the center of the array. Steam from boilers in the tower drives a turbine, which generates electricity. The power will be bought by NV Energy, which signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Solar Reserve subsidiary Tonopah Solar a year ago.

Crescent Dunes wasn’t the largest or most unique project approved by the Department of the Interior (DOI) last year. Others were:

  • Oct. 5: The 709-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project in Imperial County, Calif. (Tessera Solar of Texas), which will use Stirling Energy System’s SunCatcher technology and 28,360 solar dishes; and the Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project (Chevron Energy Solutions), in San Bernardino County, Calif., a 45-MW photovoltaic (PV) solar project.
  • Oct. 7: The 370-MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the first solar power tower approved. The project will be located in San Bernardino County, Calif. (Figure 2).

2. Tower of power. From Oct. to Dec. 2010, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved construction of nine solar energy projects on federal lands. Among them was BrightSource’s 370-MW Ivanpah Solar Power Tower (shown in this artist’s rendering). Courtesy: BrightSource
  • Oct. 13: The 50-MW Silver State North Solar Project south of Las Vegas, Nev. First Solar Inc.’s project is a PV plant that will occupy about 600 acres of federal land.
  • Oct 20: The 663.5-MW Calico Solar project (Tessera Solar of Texas), which will use SunCatcher solar dishes to produce power in San Bernardino County, Calif.
  • Oct. 26: The 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power project, Solar Millennium’s parabolic trough project planned for Riverside County, Calif.
  • Nov. 7: The 250-MW Genesis Solar Project (NextEra Energy Resources), which will use parabolic trough technology in Riverside County, Calif.
  • Nov. 15: The 500-MW Armargosa Farm Road Solar Project (Solar Millennium), which will use two 250-MW parabolic trough “dry cooled” power plants with thermal energy storage.

—Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.