Several large, new solar thermal power plants are expected to begin commercial operation by the end of 2013, more than doubling the solar thermal generating capacity in the United States. The projects use different solar thermal technologies and storage options. Abengoa’s Solana plant, which came on line in October 2013, is a 250-megawatt (MW) parabolic trough plant in Gila Bend, Arizona with integrated thermal storage. BrightSource’s Ivanpah, expected to enter service by the end of 2013, is a 391-MW power tower plant in California’s Mojave Desert and does not include storage.
Solana and Ivanpah are much larger than solar thermal plants that have previously entered service in the United States. Over the past decade, a few smaller-scale and demonstration solar thermal projects have entered service. The only other dedicated solar thermal plants larger than 10 MW in the United States are the series of Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) plants built in California in the 1980s and early 1990s and the Nevada Solar One parabolic trough project completed in 2007.
Note: This map excludes generators for which solar thermal energy is not used as the primary energy source, such as the 75-MW Martin Solar Energy Center, which connects a parabolic trough field to an existing natural gas combined-cycle plant.
EIA projections for total solar thermal capacity additions in 2013 and 2014 include six projects for a total of 1,257 MW, with more expected in 2015 and 2016. However, while these solar thermal capacity additions are significant for the technology, they represent only 4% of total expected capacity additions for 2013 and 2014 (see chart below). Solar thermal capacity additions also continue to be outpaced by solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity additions, even though solar PV has only meaningfully entered the utility-scale market in the past few years.
The [list] below describe the solar thermal technologies at Solana and Ivanpah, as well as Solana’s storage deployment.
Both parabolic trough and power tower technologies can be integrated with varying levels of thermal storage. For example, the Crescent Dunes solar thermal power tower plant near Tonopah, Nevada that is expected to come on line by the end of 2013 will include 10 hours of thermal energy storage.
All five of the major solar thermal projects—including Solana and Ivanpah—that are scheduled to come on line in 2013 and 2014 were awarded loans through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program. Solana received a federal loan guarantee for $1.45 billion of the approximately $2 billion cost of the project, according to the parent company, Abengoa. BrightSource Energy reports a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee on the approximately $2.2 billion Ivanpah project.