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World’s Two Largest Solar Power Towers Planned for California

The two largest solar towers in the world are in the works for California, and are expected to add 500 MW of clean energy to the grid when they come online in 2016.

Abengoa and Brightsource Energy are the joint partners behind the new Palen Solar Electric Generating System, which is planned for a location in a “Solar Energy Zone” in Riverside County, CA.

The system consists of two 250 MW concentrated solar power towers, with each unit reaching a height of 750 feet off the ground. On the solar towers, the heat from the mirrors generates high temperature steam, which is then used to spin a turbine to produce electricity.

“At the heart of the system is a state-of-the-art solar field design, optimization software and a control system that allow for the creation of high temperature steam. The steam is then integrated with conventional power plant turbines to produce predictable, reliable and cost-competitive clean energy.”

The design of the solar energy plant is said to enable a high concentration of heliostats (the mirror units that focus the energy on the towers), thereby reducing the amount of land required from the project by about 30% when compared to a traditional PV panel installation of the same capacity.

Instead of mounting the heliostats on poles secured in concrete footings, the design for this project calls for placing the poles directly in the ground, which will enable the systems to be built over the natural contours of the site and retain some of the native flora around and under the mirrors. In addition, the initial proposal called for a project footprint of 4300 acres, but the revised design will only take up about 3800 acres, so the project will have a bit less of an impact on the local environment.

According to Abengoa, this project will use 50% less water than previous designs by deploying a “dry-cooling” technology, and will generate enough power to supply 200,000 homes with electricity, saving an estimated 17 million tons of CO2 over the life of the plant.

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