The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System was created through the partnership of Google, NRG Energy, and Bright Source Energy. The latter is an Oakland based renewable energy startup. Readers of this blog will also remember that Google has been moving into the renewable energy market. Last October Google invested $103 million in a solar energy plant under construction in Southern California, its 13th investment in the renewable energy sphere.
Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, was present for the opening ceremony. He said, ““Four of the world’s five biggest CSP projects and the first five U.S. utility-scale PV projects were supported by DOE loan guarantees. As a result, none of the next ten utility-scale solar installations required federal support.”
Some questions, however, remain about the new facility. It is a thermal plant, as opposed to the standard industry photovoltaic plants. Its detractors have claimed that this technology can kill off wildlife (some dead birds were found with singed feathers), and that the power is more expensive than photovoltaic methods. Bright Source and other supporters of the new technology counter that solar thermal allows for stable production and storage of power even when the sun isn’t shining, that this technology makes more sense than photovoltaic on a mass scale, and that the reduction in fossil fuel use more than counterbalances any possible disruption of wildlife habitats (Indeed, the plant already went through a thorough investigation of possible impacts of a species of turtle in the area).