BrightSource on track to build the world's largest solar plant in Mojave desert

BrightSource Energy and its Israeli subsidiary Luz II, have recently completed their Solar Energy Development Center project in the Negev's Rotem Industrial Park, Israel. The development indicates that plans are on track to build the world's largest solar plant in California's Mojave desert.

The Center is an operational solar field that will provide the company with the ability to test equipment, materials and procedures as well as construction and operating methods.

 "This is an important step forward for the entire solar industry and for anyone who cares about

generating clean energy at significant scale," said John Woolard, CEO, BrightSource Energy. "With the launch of this Center, we are proving that clean energy can be generated reliably, more efficiently, and at lower cost than ever before."

This solar field is a scaled cross-section of a typical commercial plant and includes more than 1,600 full-size glass mirrors (heliostats) and a 60 meter tall tower topped by a solar boiler.

The power tower and surrounding heliostats concentrate the sun's energy onto the boiler, heating the water inside to 550° C, or over 1000° F. In a commercial plant, the utility-grade superheated steam will be piped from the boiler to a standard turbine where electricity will be generated, all at a much higher operating efficiency and lower cost than other solar power plants. From here, transmission lines would carry the power to homes and businesses. In order to conserve water, BrightSource uses air cooling to convert the steam back into water. The water is then returned to the boiler in a closed loop.

In March, BrightSource entered into a series of power purchase agreements with PG&E for up to 900MW of electricity. BrightSource is currently developing a number of solar power plants in Southern California, with construction of the first plant planned to start in 2009.

In May, BrightSource announced that it had secured $115 million in additional corporate funding from its Series C round of financing, bringing the total the company has raised to date to over $160 million.

Operating more efficiently than older solar thermal methods, and costing much less to build, the company says its technology will change the way utilities generate electricity. The solar power plants that BrightSource is actively developing will provide enough electricity to power more than 3.2 million homes and remove emissions equivalent to what is produced by approximately one million cars.