SolarReserve unveils plans for 2,000MW solar and storage plant

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US solar developer wants to build world’s biggest solar development, a 2,000MW, $US5 billion project featuring its solar tower and molten salt storage technology.

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US solar developer SolarReserve has unveiled plans for what would be the world’s biggest solar development, a 2,000MW, $US5 billion project featuring its solar tower and molten salt storage technology.

The ambitious project was revealed in the Las Vegas News, the city that is now at least partly powered by the company’s first large scale solar tower and storage plant, the 110MW Crescent Dunes project at Tonopah.

SolarReserve, which wants to build a similar 100MW solar plant in South Australia, says it is now looking at replicating this projects on a massive scale, with a project including 10 such arrays totalling between 1,500MW and 2,000MW.

SolarReserve_110_Crescent_Dune_Solar_CSP_Nevada_US_Image_SolarReserve_LLC
SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes plant

CEO Kevin Smith told the paper that the “Sandstone” project would be around the same size as a nuclear power plant and would be far bigger than any of the world’s existing solar facilities.

“It’s a big project. It’s an ambitious project,” he said.

Smith expects to be able to announce a roughly 16,000-acre site for the new project within the next six to nine months, the paper said. Smith said company officials have looked at about a dozen locations over the past year and narrowed the list down to two, both on federal land in Nye County Nevada.

Construction probably won’t start for another two or three years, Smith said, and would likely rely on significant power purchase agreements, and the construction of new transmission lines.

The Crescent Dunes plant uses 10,000 mirrored heliostats to focus sunlight on a 200m tall central tower, heating the molten salt inside to more than 600°C, and then storing that heat for use whenever the market operator needs it.

It supplies Las Vegas with electricity between the hours of midday and midnight, but can provide power 24/7 or be used as a peaking plant.

Smith told the Las Vegas paper that the new project will be paid for with commercial financing, though he said his company will explore federal loan programs.

Most of the power from the Sandstone project will likely be “exported to the California market,” which has high renewable energy targets for 2030 and lots of solar, but little solar with storage.

“We’ve certainly identified potential buyers,” Smith said.

SolarReserve’s plans for South Australia have been set back since the state government indicated it wanted to prioritise gas plants. It is holding a tender for “low carbon” sources, but is offering only a 10 year contract and has reclassified one 17 year old plant as a “new entrant” to try and attract it to the tender.

In the Las Vegas News article, Smith said allegations of major issues with bird deaths from solar tower plants were overblown, at least at Crescent Dunes, where he said the full-time biologists on site have logged around 60 bird deaths over the past year.

“That’s probably less than the office building we work out of in Santa Monica (where the company is headquartered),” he said.

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3 Comments
  1. Clee 3 years ago

    How is a 16,000 acre project “around the same size as a nuclear power plant” when Hinkley Point C is at most 430 acres? That’s like 37 Hinkley Point Cs.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hinkley-point-c
    “The 430 acre site – reducing to 165 acres once operational”

    • Ian 3 years ago

      Is this a serious question? The size referred to is the generation capacity not the land footprint, silly. Maybe, Clee, you were being ironic in your comment, if that’s the case then you are right 16 000 acres is a huge chunk of land, even if it is semi desert. Some time ago there was a proposal for a solar tower. Originally this called for a massive chimney reaching a km into the sky all rather preposterous. You have got to worry about announcements that are such outliers compared with what others are doing. 16000 acres of mirrors, yeh right, spin us another one. Unfortunately Hinkley has the same crazy exaggerated mega-project status. White elephantitis the both of them.

      • Clee 3 years ago

        Yes, it was a serious question when I wrote it, though I figured it out afterwards. It was ambiguous enough and I guess I was thrown off by “the same size” claim being followed by the acreage and preceded by a photo of a vast solar array. Size in MW between a solar array and nuclear might not be directly comparable because of capacity factor. It would be very neat though if they have enough storage so the solar thermal plant can run at 70-90% capacity factor. Looks like Crescent Dunes was designed for a 52% capacity factor. Not too shabby. At that capacity factor, a 2000 MW solar project would generate around the same GWh per year as Watts Bar 2. So it does appear comparable after all. Thanks.

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