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Energy Dept. spends $2B to double US concentrated solar power capacity

US DOE offers paves way for 500 megawatts of solar power

By Layer 8 on Wed, 06/15/11 - 11:57am.

The US Department of Energy today said it was conditionally committing $2 billion to develop two concentrating solar power projects that it says will offer 500 megawatts of power combined, effectively doubling the nation's currently installed capacity of that type of power.

Concentrated solar systems typically use parabolic mirrors to collect solar energy.  Other methods include system such as a power tower that uses directed mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar receiver at the top of a tall tower.   Google in fact recently  invested $168 million in such a system.

More on energy projects: 10 hot energy projects that could electrify the world 

The new projects are both located in California: the Mojave Solar Project (MSP) in San Bernardino County and the Genesis Solar Project in Riverside County. The projects will both sell power to Pacific Gas and Electric.

According to the DOE, when operational, the 250MW Mojave Solar Project will avoid over 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power over 53,000 homes.

The site will be the first US utility-scale deployment of the project's vendor, Abengoa Solar's  Solar Collector Assembly (SCA).  The SCA's features include a lighter, stronger frame designed to hold parabolic mirrors that are less expensive to build and install. The SCA heat collection element uses an advanced receiver tube to increase thermal efficiency by up to 30% percent compared to the nation's first CSP plants, the DOE states. In addition, the advanced mirror technology will improve reflectivity and accuracy. Together, these improvements can permit the collection of the same amount of solar energy from a smaller solar field. Unlike older CSP plants, the Mojave system will operate without fossil fuel back-up systems for generation during low solar resource periods, according to the DOE.

The 250MW Genesis Solar Project meanwhile, will feature scalable parabolic trough solar thermal technology that has been used commercially for more than two decades. The project is expected to avoid over 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and produce enough electricity to power over 48,000 homes, the DOE stated.   NextEra Energy in the primary vendor on the project.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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