The largest concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) plant, at least to date, is currently being developed by Israeli energy company Solel Inc. The Mojave Solar Park (MSP-1) is a 553MW facility that will take up 9 square miles of desert land and will provide Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) with 1,388 gigawatts of energy annually. PG&E have entered into a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement with Solel which was signed in July 2007.

Solel uses a patented solar thermal parabolic trough technology to convert heat from the sun into electricity. The process begins by employing parabolic mirrors, usually set in rows, that concentrate the solar energy onto solar thermal receivers containing a heat transfer fluid. The fluid is circulated and heated through receivers before it is released through heat exchangers to produce super-heated steam. The steam powers a turbine/generator which produces electricity which is passed into the power grid.

The Mojave Solar Park will be constructed at a cost of around $2 billion and will produce enough electricity annually to power around 400,000 homes. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009 and is due for completion in 2011. It will use 1.2 million mirrors (a sobering thought is how much bad luck a hail storm could bring to California) and 317 miles of vacuum tubing to harness the solar energy coming from the desert sun. (Yes, I know it’s the same sun as the feeble one that tries to warm England, but it sounds hotter if you call it the “desert sun”).

Approval for the project must still be gained from the California state agencies but PG&E and Solel spokespeople are confident that they will be given the green light owing to the state government’s clean energy projections.

To read about other solar energy developments, visit the Solar Energy page.

Updates about the Mojave Solar Park are welcome via my contacts page or through comments.