Is there any sun brighter or more potent than that of the desert sun at high noon? The California Energy Commission (CEC) and the national Bureau of Land Management (BLM) don’t seem to think so. In mid-February the two released an environmental impact statement for the Solar Two project, which assessed the impact that the construction of 42,000 dish/Stirling systems – to be built by Stirling Energy Systems (SES) and Tessera Solar – on 10 square miles of desert located 100 miles east of San Diego.
The systems, called SunCatchers, are one form of concentrating solar power (CSP) technology, which, as explained by the U.S. Department of Energy, “generally involves concentrating the sun’s heat with some form of mirror, and then converting that heat into electricity.” The SunCatcher employs parabolic trough systems, which in turn use trough-shaped mirrors. Details regarding the SunCatcher’s functionality can be found on Stirling Energy’s How-It-Works website. In terms of impact on the construction site, the impact statement mentioned no major impediments, only an inevitable visual impact, as well as measures to be taken for protecting desert species, such as the flat-tailed horned lizard.
According to the CEC, construction of the Solar Two project will be completed in two phases. The first phase consists of building 12,000 SunCatchers arranged in 200 1.5MW solar groups of 60 SunCatchers per group, with a net generating capacity of 300MW. Phase II will see 18,000 SunCatchers added in 500-1.5-MW solar groups for a net of 750MW.