Frequently Asked Questions
The project is being developed to provide a sustainable, renewable, cost-effective source of electricity using a unique technology which can capture solar energy throughout the day, store the energy, and schedule electricity production to occur whenever it is needed-during hours of peak electricity demand, or during evening or nighttime hours. The storage system allows the project to generate a stable power supply that will enhance electricity grid stability and facilitate wider use of intermittent renewable sources such as wind energy.
Nevada has some of the best solar resources available in the world. Solar energy can supplement other resources to serve the country's need for clean, affordable domestic energy supplies and help sustain continued economic development. This site is in a largely undeveloped area with good site access as well as access to NV Energy’s existing transmission system, minimizing the length and cost of new transmission lines required.
The project is proposed to be located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM manages the public land for multiple uses but recognizes that solar radiation levels in the Southwest are some of the best in the world-and that a significant number of lands administered by the BLM have levels of solar radiation suitable for utility-scale solar power plant development. Renewable energy is considered a beneficial public use and BLM’s policy is to facilitate environmentally responsible renewable energy development, consistent with national and state leadership goals for renewable energy. While the size of the project is large (approximately 1600 acres of disturbance) compared to conventional power projects, it represents less than .05% of all BLM-administered lands in Nye County. And operation of the plant will not require combustion of fossil fuels.
The project will have a large circular field of mirrors (heliostats). At the center of the field will be a tall, central receiver tower and the power block. The tall tower increases the efficiency of the plant and ensures that the large array of heliostats can focus the solar energy onto the receiver mounted on top of the tower. As part of the environmental review process, visual simulations have been prepared and submitted to the regulatory agencies to show how the project will look to viewers from several locations.
During the day, the receiver (which is mounted on top of the tower) will glow as it absorbs solar energy. There will be no solar energy at night, so the receiver will not operate. The plant will be designed with downcast lighting to minimize light pollution and will be limited at night only as necessary for worker safety. The FAA will require lighting systems on the tower (similar to those required by the FAA for communication towers).
The tower will be a concrete structure, approximately 553 feet high, on which a receiver approximately 100 feet tall is mounted. A maintenance crane will be mounted on top of the receiver, for an overall height of 653 feet. The proposed tower height was established by an economic optimization study to determine the lowest cost of electricity production. As the tower grows taller, the plant efficiency increases.
The solar collection field (heliostats) will operate whenever there is sufficient solar resource to collect energy. The heliostats will quietly track the sun during the day but will not operate after sundown. Because the facility is equipped with storage, the facility can generate electricity at any time, even during evening hours. Because the power block is in the middle of the large heliostat field, however, about a mile from the plant boundary, we do not expect noise levels to be significant based on studies performed for other projects. In addition, the nearest residence is about 9 miles away. This issue, however, will be thoroughly studied in the EIS process to ensure that noise does not result in impacts.
Water is a scarce resource in the Southwest. Recognizing this concern, SolarReserve has chosen to use a more costly hybrid cooling system which will use less than 600 acre-feet/year of water, a significant savings over a traditionally wet-cooled plant. More importantly, we propose to use existing water rights so that the amount of water withdrawn from the basin does not increase as a result of our project. Our proposed use of water and water rights will be thoroughly reviewed and analyzed by the Nevada Water Resources Division and during the EIS process before a permit is granted to construct the project.
The benefits of this solar facility are: 1) to produce a stable supply of renewable energy in an environmentally-responsible manner, 2) to enhance the local economy by payment of annual property taxes, and 3) to boost revenues for local businesses, since those who construct, operate and maintain the new plant will likely purchase goods and services and live in and around Tonopah, Nevada.