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Today, I’m traveling to southern California to participate in the dedication ceremony for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. As the largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the world, Ivanpah harnesses the abundant sunlight of the Southwest United States to provide power on a massive scale. The facility has the capacity to generate 392 megawatts (MW) of clean electricity -- enough to power 94,400 average American homes. Most of the power generated by the system will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements to Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison Company.
The successful completion of Ivanpah underscores America’s growing leadership in the global solar industry. As President Obama highlighted during his State of the Union address, more Americans are relying on solar energy to power their homes and business than ever before. In the last five years alone we have doubled the amount of energy we produce form this vital, renewable resource.
This forward progress would not be possible without continued support from the Energy Department for innovative solar power projects like Ivanpah. The result of a successful public-private partnership, Ivanpah is supported by $1.6 billion in investments from our Loan Programs Office. Since a CSP project of this size had never been built before in the United States, the loan guarantee was essential to securing the necessary financing to make it happen.
Ivanpah significantly expands the use of CSP technologies within the United States. Its innovative power-tower technology utilizes a field of mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and focus sunlight onto boilers that sit atop 459-foot tall towers. When the sunlight hits the boiler, it heats the water inside to create superheated steam used to spin an electricity-generating turbine.
The innovation isn’t stopping with Ivanpah. Through LPO’s Section 1705 program there are now five utility-scale CSP plants operating or under construction in the United States that will generate enough clean electricity to power 252,000 homes. In addition to adding substantial clean energy to the grid, constructing these projects in Arizona, California and Nevada has put thousands of Americans in the Southwest to work and created a value chain that stretches across the United States manufacturing supplies like steel, mirrors and gear.
The Energy Department is not only playing a role in CSP by helping to finance its first commercial deployments, my colleagues in SunShot and ARPA-E are driving advancements through innovative research, development and demonstration projects, as well as manufacturing.
- Recently, ARPA-E announced $30 million in investments for 12 projects to develop transformational hybrid solar energy technologies that deliver cost-effective power when the sun isn’t shining.
- The Department’s SunShot Initiative announced a $25 million funding opportunity to help solar energy manufacturers and the solar supply chain tackle key cost-contributors such as raw materials, labor, and capital expenses and make improvements to labor-intensive solar manufacturing processes.
- The Department is partnering with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), investing $10 million to integrate utility-scale CSP technology with SMUD’s 500 MW)natural gas-fired Cosumnes Power Plant in an effort to demonstrate cost-competitive CSP-fossil fuel power generating systems in the United States.
If last year was the year for PV solar -- 2013 is expected to be the first time in more than a decade that the United States tops world leader Germany in adding solar power to the grid -- then this year is shaping up to be America’s year for CSP.