The project focuses on developing one of the world’s largest solar power plants in Gila Bend, Arizona.  The facility will use renewable energy sources to provide a gross output of 280-MW, and supply 70,000 homes with power.

Who’s involved?  

Abengoa Solar:  Develops power plants using several applications of solar power technology

APS:  Leading producer of electrical power in Arizona

Dept. of Energy:  Recently agreed to invest almost $1.5 billion dollars in Abengoa Solar.

The Technology

While Abengoa works with both photovoltaics and tower technology, the facility in Gila Bend, AZ will use concentrating solar power (CSP) from a trough-based system.  The trough is a parabolic shaped configuration of mirrors that converts the energy from the sun into heat.  The heat sends a heat transfer fluid to a steam turbine where it is generates grid connected electricity.  This technology is optimal for application in Arizona.  The area has the highest solar radiation values in all of the United States.  As opposed to photovoltaics that need direct sunlight, the troughs diffuse solar radiation.  This also allows for dispatchable power to be stored in thermal tanks.

The Facility

Located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, the facility will include 2700 trough collectors on a 3 square mile field.  In the center of the solar fields is all of the operating equipment.  This includes an operations building, steam turbines, cooling towers, thermal storage tanks, and heat transfer fluid pumps and vessels.  Once the electricity is generated, it is sent 18 miles east to the APS Panda Station.  At this point, it ties in with the grid electrical output to be used at the disposal of APS.

The preconstruction phase is finally complete after two and a half years.  With the recent funds totaling $1.45 billion from the DOE, construction on the solar field and facility will be underway this year.  It will take another two and half to three years until the power plant becomes operational.  When it does become operational it should be the largest in the world.   

A comparable project that Abengoa has their hand in is the Masdar project in Abu Dhabi.  This project aims to create a carbon neutral city and has a 10-MW solar power plant.  Abengoa’s experience with this project and others provides some reassurance to the investment made by our government. 

Click here to learn more about the recent sustainable construction industry projects funded by ARRA.